A return to winning ways for Primera Division title holders River Plate proved to be short lived as they suffered a 2-1 reverse at home. The defeat to Argentinos Juniors on Sunday sees Los Millionarios stay rooted to the foot of the table.
This was a game which highly rated left-winger Matias Abelairas pinpointed as a must win game after his team recorded only their second victory of the Apertura (Argentina’s championship running from August to December) last week.
“When we look at the position that we occupy on the table we can’t be happy. We have to keep improving, and to think of Argentinos Juniors, our next opponents. We have to claim the three points to escape from this situation, which nobody likes.” Abelairas said.
While Abelairas’ wish was not granted the midfielder continues to attract interest from Europe. This sizing up of their best players is just one of the anomalies of the current predicament facing River Plate.
Along with defender Gustavo Cabral, fancied by Atletico Madrid, Abelairas could be the latest player to fall off the River Plate conveyer belt and into the lap of a top European team.
This is the same production line that has sprouted Champions League finalists Pablo Aimar, Hernan Crespo and Roberto Ayala amongst others in recent times.
The saving grace for the current River Plate team is that relegation from the Primera Division is decided by an average of final league placings over the previous three seasons. This measure was first introduced when the Buenos Aires team found themselves second bottom some 25 years ago and remains a system heavily criticised for saving the skin of big clubs when they have a dodgy season.
It is akin to Tottenham Hotspur getting off to a bad start in the Premier League but having no sense of urgency to move away from the bottom, as they can rest assured that come the end of the season they will not go down. This seems to have been the case with River Plate’s indifferent term.
Earlier this year River Plate won the Clausura (Argentina’s championship running from February to June). With former crowd favourite Diego Simone at the helm it seemed to herald the beginning of a new age for the side who had not won a league title for four years.
However, a few months down the line Simone was waving goodbye to the Estadio Monumental de Nunez as he bowed out a fortnight ago against Huracan. The level of support at this match for the outgoing boss who had taken them to bottom of the league table was unprecedented.
Simone, known as el Cholo to the River faithful, was cheered as songs were sung and banners waved in his honor for the full 90 minutes. River Plate found themselves 3-0 down within 35 minutes in the match but the setbacks resulted in the support of el Cholo becoming more and more intense.
The first half implosion was followed by three second half goals which secured River Plate a point from the game and encapsulated the Jekyll and Hyde nature of Simone’s team. Capable of winning the league one season and then propping it up the next.
I find it hard to believe the celebration of Simone’s time as player and manager would have been quite so fervent should River Plate be facing the conclusion their lacklustre season justifies, relegation.
As a side note, a minority of River fans let their passion for the club get the better of them last week when they hijacked a bus in Avellaneda, a southern suburb of Buenos Aires. It appeared the fans were a touch overeager to see new coach Gabriel Rodriguez’s first game in charge.
Sixty fans were held by police after the bus driver was bullied into driving faster in an effort to make kick-off. As it turned out none of the fans made it to the game in which River Plate beat Independiente 1-0.
Their actions gave Argentina it’s second football related bus hijacking in less than a week.