By Jack Tilghman
In a game that reflected the poor form of both clubs, River Plate toppled Boca Juniors 1-0 in El Monumental before a raucous sell-out crowd, who set the tone for the match by unveiling a massive flag in support of River.
From the outset, River was the stronger team with 18 year old playmaker Erik Lamela acting as the star of the show. When he was just 12, Barcelona tried to steal El Coco right from under the noses of River’s directors, but after long negotiations, Los Millonarios came to an agreement with the youngsters parents, and Erik stayed in Argentina.
Six years later, the number 10 is showing signs of being the next big thing in Argentine soccer, and his performance in El Superclasico Tuesday night may have been his coming out party.
Lamela played ex-Real Betis hitman Mariano Pavone through on goal after 16 minutes, but his shot flew just inches wide of the far post. As the crowd continued to lfit the side, River grew as the game went on, but were only denied by Boca’s goalkeeper Javi Garcia who was only playing after regular starter Cristian Luchetti fell out with coach Claudio Borghi.
Garcia stopped veteran Ariel Ortega in a one-on-one situation, before stopping Walter Acevedo’s powerful free-kick that came whistling in from over 30 yards out. Lamela then tried his luck with a set piece, but again Garcia was up to the task, tipping the shot over the bar for a corner.
Offensively, Boca was nullified by the brilliance of River captain Matias Almeyda and Acevedo in the midfield who shut out Boca star Juan Roman Riquelme out of the match.
River continued to pressure with Lamela and Roberto Pereyra as the biggest threats, with Pereyra setting up Paulo Ferrari who shot over the bar with the goal at his disposal.
In the second half, Riquelme left the field injured, leaving Martin Palermo isolated and ineffective up front, while River continued to look the better team and finally got the reward when ex-Boca man Jonatan Maidan rose to head home Lamela’s corner eight minutes after the restart.
The rest of the game was rather poor, with River missing a few guilt edged chances to put the game away, forcing coach JJ Lopez and all the fans to bite their finger nails until the end, when River finally celebrated a win over Boca for the first time since 2007.
For Boca, the loss almost certainly means the end of Borghi as coach, while River must now look to add momentum under Lopez as they head into another clasico this Sunday against San Lorenzo.