Argentina’s big guns show signs of life

April 6, 2011

SOCCER/Boca Juniors have two aces in their pack, one now firing on all cylinders, the other in one of his worst slumps during his final season before retiring.

River Plate have a new ace at the lower end of the age scale who is growing in confidence, cheek and sheer skill.

Juan Roman Riquelme, 32, who featured in a UEFA free kick training video when he was at Villarreal, has scored brilliantly with two dead balls in Boca’s last two games, both victories, after his team’s poor start to the Clausura championship.

Martin Palermo, Boca’s 37-year-old all-time record goalscorer on the other hand, has gone 748 minutes without finding the net but understudy Lucas Viatri came on for him and scored the last-minute winner against Estudiantes on Sunday.

 Teenager Erik Lamela laid on a peach of a goal for right wing back Paulo Ferrari as River beat Quilmes 1-0 to go top equal with Estudiantes, ironically thanks to their arch-rivals Boca.

Perhaps the hierarchy in Argentine football is settling back into old accustomed positions. 

Racing Club and Independiente, classic rivals from the suburb of Avellaneda, want their say as Argentina’s traditional “Big Five”, including San Lorenzo, jostle for their places at the top.

Racing have lost three games in a row yet, with 11 of the 19 games in the championship to come, believe they can still be part of the leading pack.

So do Ramón Diaz’s San Lorenzo despite a 2-1 loss at home to Colon, as only three points separate the top 10 and there are a mere five between the top two and joint-13th where Boca now lie alongside Independiente.

Antonio Mohamed’s Independiente are near the bottom of the standings but keep pulling off critical results like Friday’s 2-1 win at Gimnasia with an added-time winner that ended a 22-match run without an away victory.

Two clubs with aspirations of being part of a modern hierarchy in the Argentine game, Estudiantes and Velez Sarsfield, have shown mixed form so far this year.

Velez, runners-up to Estudiantes in the Apertura championship in the first half of the season, started poorly but have found some form and are one point behind the leaders.

Estudiantes fell to their third defeat at Boca which is why they are not way out in front. They have had to settle into working with new coach Eduardo Berizzo after Alex Sabella’s shock resignation days before the championship started.

An aging Juan Sebastian Veron appears to be irreplaceable but his all-court style is very demanding and he is not as quick as in his prime. No-one in Argentine football comes as close to his style as Riquelme, his rival as the best player in the country and the man gunning to snatch the league title from him.

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