Buenos Aires Times

sports SUPERLIGA RETURNS

Boca storm on as rest of ‘Big Five’ drop points

Goals, marginal decisions, comebacks bomb threats and bruises (to bodies and egos) – the Superliga’s first round of fixtures after the summer holidays didn’t disappoint.

Saturday 3 February, 2018
Boca Juniors forward Carlos Tevez jumps over a strong challenge from Atlético Colón defender Germán Conti (right), during their Superliga clash at La Bombonera last weekend.
Boca Juniors forward Carlos Tevez jumps over a strong challenge from Atlético Colón defender Germán Conti (right), during their Superliga clash at La Bombonera last weekend. Foto:AFP/ ALEJANDRO PAGNI

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It was a long wait over the summer holidays, but the first Superliga round of fixtures in 2018 certainly didn’t disappoint fans craving action. There were goals, bruises and even a bomb threat last weekend as the top flight picked up where it left off and provided plenty of talking points.

The bruises in question belonged to one Carlos Tevez. Boca Juniors’ prodigal son lost his few remaining fans in China when he rather disrespectfully stated that his US$40- million stay at Shanghai Shenhua was a “holiday,” prior to what always seemed an inevitable return to the Bombonera.

It didn’t take Carlitos long, however, to realise that the holiday was over in his longanticipated homecoming against Colón. Tevez was hit hard on several occasions, most notably taking a knee in the gut from Gustavo Toledo in a wild challenge that earned the aggressor a red card.

His joy was not dimmed by the rough and tumble though, as Tevez contributed an assist to a 2-0 Boca victory that puts the Xeneize six points ahead of nearest challengers San Lorenzo at the top of the Superliga.

“I felt alive again,” he said after the final whistle. “Not just when I was walking down the tunnel, but at every point in the game. When I saw the shirt, and put it on... I am enjoying this moment, there is no discomfort. I am happy.”

As are all of Boca. After a nightmare pre-season that included problems on and off the field, the leaders showed that when it really counts they can still grind out results, while San Lorenzo were found badly wanting in a 2-0 defeat to Talleres to kick off 2018, making next week’s Boca visit to the Nuevo Gasometro perhaps the club’s last chance to stay in the title race and frustrate the leaders’ ambitions of wrapping up the Superliga well ahead of schedule.

‘BIG FIVE’ SLUMP

Indeed, Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s high-fliers were the only members of the ‘big five’ not to taste defeat on this opening weekend.

In River Plate’s case, they can perhaps be forgiven for not being in the right state of mind after going down to Huracán. Kick-off at Parque Patricios was delayed for almost two hours when a bomb threat was registered at the stadium, leading to the two teams kicking their heels before police determined it was the same dangerous prank that tends to plague Buenos Aires schools around exam time.

When the action finally did get underway, a Rodrigo Pussetto penalty made the difference in a 1-0 reverse for the Millonario: needless to say, coach Marcelo Gallardo was rather more upset at that marginal decision than the explosive news that pushed back the match’s start.

Racing Club and Independiente too had little to cheer in their first taste of action in 2018, the Avellaneda clubs both beaten 2-1 after taking the advantage.

Debutant Racing coach Eduardo Coudet saw his newlook side dismantled by Unión in Santa Fe, proving Aristotle’s old adage that the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts.

Expensive recruits like former Boca man Ricardo Centurión were shown up by a team that, while lacking star factor, was collectively far superior to its more distinguished opponent – a lesson that Coudet would be loathe to ignore after his men were out-thought, outran and generally shown up on Sunday evening.

In Avellaneda, meanwhile, Independiente rested on their laurels after Emanuel Gigliotti took the lead and yielded two goals in quick succession to Estudiantes, a sign that life without now-departed firstteamers Ezequiel Barco and Nicolás Tagliafico will not be easy for the Copa Sudamericana holders.

More than a few egos were bruised as well in this tough opening round – but there is still plenty of time left in the season to turn round ailing fortunes.

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