River Plate goad Boca Juniors with inflatable pig as Superclásico returns to Argentina
It has been one year, five months and 13 days since they last met in a competitive fixture but yesterday River Plate and Boca Juniors crossed swords once again, reigniting their old rivalry in arguably football’s biggest derby game – El Superclásico. It is perhaps rare that a match between teams placed fifth and eleventh in the league is the biggest game of the weekend but then this is no ordinary fixture.
Historically, like many of football’s biggest grudge matches, the animosity between the two sides was originally based on class lines. Both clubs came from the same part of Buenos Aires, but River’s move to a wealthier part of town and lavish spending in the newly professional era, earned them the nickname Los Millonarios and a reputation as being a club for the rich, while Boca stayed put and established themselves as the working man’s club.
These days no such distinction could be made, they are simply the two biggest clubs in a football-obsessed nation, perhaps even on the whole continent. Now the rivalry is spread across the country, a footballing civil war that divides loyalties everywhere, from playgrounds to parillas, and where every fresh battle is subjected to weeks of analysis before and after.
However yesterday’s Superclásico was even more eagerly anticipated than usual with the pre-match hype reaching new levels thanks to the relegation of River Plate in 2011. The year they spent in the Nacional B meant there had never been more time between Superclasicos and Boca’s fans spent as much of it as possible goading their River counterparts who waited almost 500 days for the chance to silence them.
In the end they only had to wait 90 seconds for the first taste of revenge, the crowd’s attention barely switched from the obligatory, pre-game flares, firecrackers and ticker tape blizzard, when Boca keeper Agustin Orion horribly misjudged Leo Ponzio’s 40-yard free kick, allowing it to bounce and beat him at his near post.
It was practically the only thing of note in a scrappy first half otherwise only remarkable for the early injuries suffered by River, which forced them to make two substitutions inside the first quarter. Half time saw River fans do some goading of their own, releasing an enormous inflatable pig dressed in Boca colours and floating it provocatively in front of the away fans. How they had managed to get it past the strict security at the ground tells you a lot about the power of the barras bravas, the mafia-like groups of hooligans that plague almost every club in Argentine football.
While the start of the second half was delayed until the offending helium filled hog had been deflated, probably a first in football history, it continued in fairly patchy style until with 25 minutes played, River’s Uruguayan forward Rodrigo Mora latched onto Carlos Sanchez’s fantastic slipped pass and rounded the keeper before doubling his side’s lead from a tight angle.
With the home side two goals up and dominating their opponents it seemed the game was won but with 14 minutes remaining Boca won a penalty, confidently converted by the burly Santiago Silva, to give them a fairly underserved foothold in the game. It was an opportunity they made the most of, as injury time provided a final twist worthy of a pig’s tail, Walter Erviti prodding home a late equaliser after a sweeping Boca counter attack.
Considering the superiority of the home side for most of the game, the result was something of an anti-climax for the thousands packed into El Monumental and scarcely a fair reflection of the game. However after 17 months since the last meaningful clash with their old foe, for many it was just good to be back.Tagged in: football
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