River Plate enraged more than ever by Boca defeat

May 19, 2011

It is hard to recall a time when River Plate have been more enraged by a defeat to their bitter enemies Boca Juniors than now.

Club president Daniel Passarella, a temperamental former River and Argentina captain and coach, exploded at the weekly Argentine Football Association board meeting chaired by AFA chief Julio Grondona.

Passarella claimed referee Patricio Loustau should have been suspended, which he has not been, for his poor performance in Sunday’s “Superclasico” which Boca won 2-0. He did not spot five penalties against River, Passarella told the sports daily Ole.

Grondona — who had the power to designate a good, experienced referee for the big derby — should resign, said Passarella.  Grondona dismissed it as the rant of a man whose team had lost.

Passarella has a point, though, corroborated by video replays of the match. Boca’s central defenders Matias Caruzzo and Juan Insaurralde should have been punished for fouls on River’s forwards as they sped through the middle into the box and for manhandling them at corners in the opening 20 minutes.

Neutral observers and Boca fans say the increasing blight of players grabbing each other at set pieces happens every weekend in Argentina. It does and referees should deal with it but Caruzzo was very guilty on Sunday. A good player with a potential international future who does not need to cheat, he is a serial offender at holding opponents’ shirts and pulling them down.

What has happened to River Plate is that the ghost of relegation has raised its ugly head again.

River are in a deceptively comfortable position in the Clausura standings five points behind leaders Velez Sarsfield with five matches to go.

But their three-season points average leaves them just one place above safety in the relegation standings, a quite different table. There are four teams in that zone, the bottom two facing direct relegation, the other two with the prospect of playoffs against teams from the second-tier Nacional B division.

Passarella, in power since December 2009, inherited a club, traditionally Argentina’s richest and nicknamed Millonarios, in dire financial straits, poorly run and no longer producing top quality players to place on the European market.

The team were cruising a course through the middle of these rough waters, in the hunt for the title though essentially concerned with keeping well away from the drop zone, when they suddenly hit the rocks of two defeats in three matches before the visit to Boca’s Bombonera cauldron.

Now it is three defeats in four matches and a tough home clash with San Lorenzo looming next, while Boca breathe more easily after a fifth match without defeat.

River had the upper hand over their arch-rivals for two-thirds of the championship with more wins, more points and a higher position in the standings while Boca struggled to gel under new coach Julio Cesar Falcioni, with Juan Roman Riquelme not always fully fit and record scorer Martin Palermo going 10 matches without a goal.

Boca are not playing better than River but went ahead with an own-goal blunder by goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo before Palermo scored in a fourth consecutive match, his last superclasico before retiring next month, to edge within a point of River in eighth place.

Picture: Boca Juniors’ Luciano Monzon (R) heads the ball over River Plate’s Erik Lamela (C) and towards River Plate’s goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo resulting in Carrizo’s own goal during their Argentine First Division soccer match in Buenos Aires, May 15, 2011. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

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