By Jack Tilghman
Estudiantes de La Plata took a massive step towards winning the Argentina Apertura this weekend, thanks in large part to bitter rivals Gimnasia who held Velez Sarsfield.
Gimnasia fans were less than thrilled to have helped their cross town enemies, but with relegation looming, a point is a huge boost for El Lobo, while Velez fell two points behind Estudiantes and must now win out while hoping El Leon slips up down the stretch.
Estudiantes were in imperious form Saturday night, vanquishing Huracan 2-0, although the score easily could have been worse. The La Plata outfit took the early lead when the Huracan defense failed to deal with Juan Sebastian Veron’s free kick, allowing Gabriel Mercado to scramble home the lose ball after just eight minutes.
Moments later, American born midfielder Michael Hoyos smashed a tremendous volley into the top corner, but the goal was wrongly ruled out for off sides.
In the second half, Estudiantes finally gave themselves breathing space, when Veron played a trade-mark through ball to Enzo Perez who rounded goalkeeper Lucas Calviño and slotted the ball in from a tight angle. Striker Gaston Fernandez missed a few guilt edged chances over the final half an hour, but the result was never in doubt.
Elsewhere, Godoy Cruz all but secured a spot in next year’s Copa Libertadores thanks to a 2-1 win over Banfield in Mendoza Friday night. Playmaker David Ramirez opened the scoring with a sensational lobbed goal from outside of the area after nine minutes, before Carlos Sanchez lashed another long range striker into the bottom corner five minutes later.
Gabriel Mendez pulled one back for Banfield, but the damage was already done, and Godoy Cruz have the inside track while El Taladro will most likely miss out on the Copa.
Later in the weekend, River Plate and San Lorenzo played out a dour scoreless draw, with both teams more than happy to share the spoils.
Boca Juniors got back to the winning ways 2-1 against Arsenal with more dramatics from captain Martin Palermo. Sergio Araujo scored a brilliant opener for Los Xeneizes after a slaloming run from midfield, but Lisandro Lopez pulled even just after the break for Arsenal.
Just when the game looked destined for a draw, Palermo smashed a lose ball into the net for his 299th career goal.
On Monday, Independiente rightback Maxi Velazquez opened the scoring with a brilliant long range blast, only to see a red card minutes later. Colon eventually equalized through Esteban “Bichi” Fuertes, but they could not take advantage of playing against 10 men for over an hour and the game ended 1-1.