River Plate Boss Angel Cappa Under Pressure After Scoreless Draw
Life as a coach in Argentina is so difficult, that seats on the bench are often described as "electric chairs" for managers of the top clubs. The pressure to not only win, but play stylish, attacking football is such that only a few bad results will make a coach feel the pressure around his collar.
River Plate boss Angel Cappa is known for his "Tiki-tiki" style as Huracan boss, but as of yet, his transition to River, historically the most successful club in Argentina, has yet to yield the results the fans and directors desire.
After winning the first three matches of the tournament, River's faithful began to dream of a championship run, but after yesterday's scoreless draw against last-place Gimnasia de La Plata, the Nuñez outfit were left nine points behind leaders Estudiantes.
During a stretch of four straight matches without a victory, including three straight draws, Cappa has been questioned by fans and media alike for his lineup decisions and his strange substitutions throughout the match.
Yesterday was no different.
During the opening 45 minutes, River was clearly the superior side and had it not been for the interventions from Gimnasia goalkeeper Gaston Sessa and the woodwork, River could have been up four or five goals by the break.
Manchester City target Rogelio Funes Mori was the first to hit the post after being put through on goal by Erik Lamela, the newest star of River's storied academy to make an impact with the first team.
Lamela was the most threatening player throughout, and shortly after setting up Funes Mori, the 18-year-old tried an audacious trip to hit the cross bar, bringing the River fans to their feet to applaud the efforts of El Coco.
Lamela was not finished however, and he rattled the crossbar again with a searing free-kick from 25 yards that left the frame of the goal shaking.
Despite being the best player on the pitch, Lamela was bizarrely substituted at halftime for Diego Buonanotte, who is a great player, but has not yet fully recovered from a life-threatening car accident he suffered last Christmas.
With Buonanotte on the field, River lost the dominance, and Gimnasia began to create chances.
Also frustrating for the River fans was that club legend Ariel Ortega was left on the field for the full 90 minutes despite playing arguably his worst game in a River jersey.
At 36, Ortega is a shadow of the player he was only a few years ago when he captained River to the title in 2008, but his stature at the club is so large that it appears Cappa is almost afraid to replace the beloved No. 10.
Instead of taking out the obviously exhausted Ortega, he made one last roll of the dice by replacing left back Carlos Arano in favor of another striker, leaving River completely open at the back, particularly down the left flank.
Gimnasia took complete advantage of the over-aggressive substitution, and nearly won the match in the end, with the River keeper making a sensational one-on-one save with striker Jorge Cordoba.
At the death, Cordoba had one last chance but saw his shot trickle just wide of the far post.
A section of River fans showed their unhappiness with a series of boos and whistles, although the majority of the 65,000 present continued to show their support until the end.
Now, River and Cappa must regroup before a tricky trip to the foot of the Andes Mountains to face Godoy Cruz, one of the better sides of the tournament.
Reports have come out that River President Daniel Passarella left the stadium in anger after seeing that Cappa had substituted Lamela, and it appears the former Tenerife boss may be on his way out.
Ideologically, Cappa is a great manager in what he wants, but given his substitution habits over the past few games, it has become evident why Cappa has never won a title in Argentina, despite numerous shots at the top spot.
Will Cappa reinsert Lamela into the starting lineup? The fans, and evidently Passarella, will demand it.
And what about Ortega? It is always a difficult thing when a legend is on his last legs. Some players are capable of playing at high level into their late 30s, but Ortega has a long history with alcoholism and is clearly not in the best shape. Only in the last six months, El Burrito has declined considerably from where he used to be, and it is clear he needs to be on the bench.
Cappa is getting paid to make these decisions. If he keeps making the wrong ones, they won't be his to make much longer.
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