Despite its many flaws (and there really are many!), Argentina football still delivers with drama- both on and off the field, and in the fourth week of the 30 round season, the league came to life with an explosion of goals in one of the most excited weekends in recent memory.
The biggest winners of the weekend was undoubtedly Estudiantes de La Plata, who demolished Temperley 3-0 in the Estadio Unico de La Plata to remain atop the table with a perfect 12 points from four matches. With rumors swirling about a possible national team call up for next month’s World Cup qualifiers, 19 year old Santiago Ascacibar pulled the strings in midfield while veteran defender Jonathan Schunke opened the scoring before Carlos Auzqui notched his third goal in two games. Former River Plate midfielder Augosto Solari rounded out the scoring five minutes from time.
Elsewhere, Boca Juniors awoke from an indifferent start to the season thanks to under pressure signing Dario Benedetto, who scored an absolutely sensation hat trick. The former America of Mexico hitman opened the scoring after six minutes with a clever back heel, only to see Quilmes equalize just seven minutes later. It turned out, the beermakers’ goal only paved the way for Benedetto to show his true qualities.
On 17 minutes, the 26 year old received a pass from Andres Silva, turned onto his rate foot and unleashed an unstoppable 40 yard blast into the top left corner, easily one of the goals of the season so far. As if scoring wasn’t enough, the ex-Arsenal de Sarandi striker added an assist with another backheel- this time leaving Ricardo Centurion one on one with the keeper to make it 3-1. Benedetto completed his hat trick with a header, typical of a number nine, to complete the scoring and make it 4-1.
The match will be a massive boost of confidence for Benedetto who had been heavily criticized by Boca fans and pundits alike after a very poor start to his career with the Xeneizes, particularly in the club’s shock Copa Libertadores loss to Independiente del Valle. On Wednesday, Boca will square off against Lanus, who drew without goals against Aldosivi, in the Copa Argentina. The competition has taken extra meaning for Boca this year as it represents their last opportunity to qualify for the 2017 Copa Libertadores.
The Sunday night match saw arguably the match of the season, as River Plate and Defensa y Justicia drew 3-3 in Florencio Varela. The match was played at a frenetic pace throughout, and in the early going River struggled to equal the hosts’ pace and intensity. After just eight minutes, Argentina international Jonathan Maidana committed a foul in the area after a poor clearance from 20 year old goalkeeper Augusto Battalla (former captain of Argentina Under 17 and Under 20) which Tomas Pochetino, on loan with Defensa from Boca, converted to give the Halcón a shock 1-0 lead.
River, however, was able to battle back and take the lead thanks to an unfortunate own goal by Lucas Bareiro and a well placed effort from outside the box from Sebastian Driussi, a veteran of both Under 17 and Under 20 World Cups with Argentina. Even with the lead, River never looked comfortable in the match, and before the half, Defensa equalized with a powerful header from Alexander Barbosa, on loan from River. In Europe, there are often clauses put in that prevent on loan players from facing their parent clubs, but Argentina clubs are a bit behind the times with these practices, and River paid the price.
Even after Driussi gave River the lead again, River was under constant pressure, conceded six corner kicks in a row before Defensa finally found a breakthrough and tied the match at three with ex-River striker Andres Rios curling in a low effort from the top of the box with Battalla unable to move as his vision was blocked by the myriad of players in the area. Although River remains perfect, the Millionaires will feel in away, they lost two points, but at the same time that they could easily have left the southern suburbs of Greater Buenos Aires empty handed.
In addition to the point, Defensa will be happy about former Argentina international Jonas Gutierrez completing 90 minutes for the second straight week, this time playing as a defense midfielder, albeit with the license to move forward. Quite a positional switch for the winger who Maradona used as a right back during South Africa 2010.
Else where, goals were a plenty in many match. Racing dispatched Velez 3-0 in Liniers, which led to the first managerial casualty of the campaign as Velez boss Cristian Bassedas resigned Monday with just three points from four games.
Newell’s Old Boys moved into second place, just two points behind Estudiantes, with a 3-1 win over Atletico Tucuman, with Nacho Scocco, formerly of Sunderland, continuing his early season form with two goals.
Patronato, one of the earliest candidates for relegation, finally got their first point of the season with a 1-1 home draw against San Lorenzo, who rested a number of starters with their minds on this weeks Copa Sudamericana, where they must travel all the way to Venezuela to defend their 2-1 lead over Deportivo La Guaira.