Veron, Estudiantes Reach Apertura Summit With Win in La Plata Derby
In one of the most hotly contested derbies, or "clasicos" as they are known in Argentina, Estudiantes overcame crosstown nemesis Gimnasia, 2-0 to avenge last season's 3-1 defeat at the hands of El Lobo, a loss that cost Estudiantes the title, in the Clascio Platense, or La Plata Derby.
La Plata is the capital of the Buenos Aires province and is home to around 700,000 people, most of whom support either Gimnasio, the team of the working class, or Estudiantes, the side of the wealthier middle and upper classes.
After last season's heartbreak, Estudiantes made no mistakes by putting Gimnasia to the sword and finishing the game by halftime.
Early on, the game was all Estudiantes, but Gimnasia captain and goalkeeper Gaston Sessa kept his team in the match with two saves in one-on-one situations against Leandro Gonzalez.
It was only a matter of time before the home side went ahead, and eight minutes before halftime when Rodrigo Braña slithered free of a defender and put an inch-perfect cross on the head of Federico Fernandez, who nodded past Sessa, sending the crowd into a state of jubilation.
Estudiantes continued to press, and found the second just before halftime when captain Juan Sebastian Veron charged into the penalty area and was hauled down by Fabian Rinaudo, leaving referee Nestor Pitana no choice but to point to the spot.
Veron stepped up to take the penalty himself, and although Sessa guessed the right way, he could not keep out La Brujita's effort, sending Estudiantes into halftime in control of the encounter.
The second half featured more of the same, and although Estudiantes could not add to their tally, the game finished with the home side as conclusive winners.
Now, Estudiantes can look forward to bigger things, as they have taken the lead of the Apertura through eight rounds, two points ahead of Velez Sarsfield.
Unfortunately for La Pincha, their captain and idol, Veron, limped off midway through the second half and is in doubt for a massive showdown against San Lorenzo in Buenos Aires on Sunday.
At 35 years old, Veron still posses immaculate vision and passing ability, but his legs are clearly giving out, and given the amount of football he has played over the past two years, from the Copa Libertadores and local league to the World Cup qualifiers and World Cup with his country, one must wonder how much longer La Brujita can continue.
"We are going forward slowly, but we will reach the final," Veron said after the match, "Here we play with sentiment. We always adapt to the changes that we suffer throughout a match."
For Gimnasia, the defeat leaves them tied for last in the table with relegation looming, and coach Diego Cocca was fired shortly following the match.
Such is life in the Argentina First Division. Win one match, and all is right in the world; lose one, especially to your hated rivals, and you could lose your job.
No doubt there will be more thrilling derbies across the country in the coming weeks, and of course, more managers to be fired.
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