It can be difficult to divert our attention from the embarrassment that was the failed attempt of hosting a Copa Libertadores final in our country by concentrating in something nowhere as relevant as Boca Juniors defeated Independiente away from home, in the context of the Superliga. Still, every encounter counts as the season goes on. In this match analysis, we will review Boca’s performance and evaluate how prepared they will be reaching Sunday’s Libertadores final in Madrid. Don’t worry, I cannot believe it either.
Independiente 0 – 1 Boca Juniors (E.Cardona)
In case you missed anything of these last two weeks’ action, the Boca Juniors Analysis crew has good news for you. We are recording our first ever podcast, which will be posted on this site as soon as launch time. The main topic will be the never-ending, still developing Copa Libertadores scandal. Your feedback will be crucial in this new project, so stay tuned!
The game itself
Against Independiente, Boca faced their last compromise before the summer break. Even though there is still another matchday next weekend, Boca and River’s compromises have both been re-scheduled. To round this part of the season up, we could catalogue it as ‘good’. Despite having reached the final of the now year-long Copa Libertadores, Boca managed to keep up with the Superliga leaders and, with two matches still to be played, is in a position many aspire to be upon the second half of this exciting league.
Ariel Holan’s Independiente has been one of the most exciting ambassadors of Argentine football in recent times. The tale of the hockey manager that turned to football and took the club he loves back to the pinnacle was truly moving, but more exciting is the way they have managed to remain competitive. Against Boca, the red devils took to the pitch with no other than the best they had. Winning is a must if they look to keep up with the league leaders and neighbourhood rivals Racing Club, who look set to become the new champions if their chasers don’t hurry anytime soon. After suffering a shocking defeat against Lanús last weekend, their supporters expected no other than a win a Boca that has seen better times.
Boca Juniors were (still) concentrated in the eternal, embarrassing, exhausting experience that has been the CONMEBOL Libertadores final. However, this clásico was the perfect opportunity to see the regular starters in action, for during November only once did they play competitive football – against River in the first leg of the final. Names like Esteban Andrada, Lisandro Magallán, Julio Buffarini, Sebastián Villa and Darío Benedetto all have a chance of starting on Sunday, that is why it was crucial for them to get some action.
As expected, Independiente took control of the ball from the first whistle and almost never lost it until the match was over. Taking advantage of Boca’s midfield (an alternative for the alternative), their three attacking midfielders were able to display their best football, looking to provide for Emmanuel Gigliotti, the Superliga’s top scorer.
The first twenty minutes were a monologue, during which it was a miracle Boca did not concede. Part of it was thanks to Andrada’s great interventions. The former Lanús man continues to prove he is fit and ready to start in what will be his second Copa Libertadores final in as many years. Eventually, the end of the first half arrived and it would be a different Boca the one that headed for the dressing rooms. The midfield trio of Agustín Almendra, Julián Chicco and Fernando Gago could, after thirty minutes, string four or five passes together and even managed to give us hope for the second half.
As soon as some fireworks show from Independiente was over, football could continue. Although the course of the game would not variate significantly, getting Emanuel Más to the pitch, a decision that would be complemented by Edwin Cardona’s entering ten minutes after, changed the game. Always starting from Andrada’s anticipations within his box, a long throw found Gago in the middle while Independiente were still trying to regroup. The captain made a vertical pass to Mauro Zárate, who carried it forward, waited until he had two defenders on him and released the ball to Cardona. The Colombian, playing in this strange winger role he is already used to in Boca – considering he is a natural enganche – cut inside, run parallel to the line of the box and as soon as he got a millisecond off his mark drove a stunning low shot into the goalkeeper’s post, who never expected it. It was Boca’s only shot on goal, which helps us realise the state of things. This match was truly make or break for Cardona, for he has lost the manager’s consideration a long time ago, although nobody knows exactly why yet. His brief appearances as a substitute had not given him the time he needed to get comfortable on the pitch and do those things he does not many can. Even though making an appearance in the final seems like a rather distant possibility, he has shown on countless occasions how well he does at long shots.
It was a strange match overall, but one that counts in the end. Boca played awfully, perhaps a product of Independiente’s sixty per cent possession statistic. This is no excuse, however, because possession does not translate into opportunities. The fact that Boca allowed an incredible twenty-five shots from the hosts proves that not only did they never saw a glimpse of the ball, but also that defensively they were deplorable. The match could have been a draw had it not been for the referee’s inexplicable decision to rule for a foul on Andrada (in my opinion the foul that hurts the game the most, the one on the goalkeeper), a foul that did not exist, and a penalty not given to Independiente. However, and despite Holan’s complaints and conspiracy claims against teams that are not River or Boca, the truth is that Lisandro Magallán was incorrectly sent off, the fate that Gigliotti should have also faced but it turns out he played for free after a criminal high-kick on Buffarini. There never is a winner after bad refereeing, only a loss for football.
As to hoping for eye-catching performances, we have concluded it will be better to accept this style of play as the managers’ desired one. What began as a functional alternative has become a philosophy and results seem to prove the Schelotto twins right. Boca continues to win because of its goalkeeper and how obscenely good its forwards are. Period. It will be better, for the sake of analysis, to accept Boca play this…whatever this abomination is.
The shape the Xeneize will reveal when February comes and the league resumes remains to be seen. This ‘Super’ Boca we all know and love might not be the same next year, as many doubt its stars can continue to tolerate the collateral damage of grotesque devaluation in Argentina, which in the end affects their wages. Many players could be on their way out, a path the manager might also follow, considering the fond memories Major League Soccer has of him. Regarding the way the team plays, a point of extreme polarisation has been reached and there is no return. Some consider this project has fulfilled its purpose of existence, regardless of what happens on Sunday. The alternative, on the other hand, are those who still believe this peculiar managerial duo has something to offer in order to remain competitive and, also, play attractive football again.
Nobody knows what the future will hold for Boca. It could for certain be radically different from what we have become used to during these last three years, and it will be decided on Sunday 20:30 Madrid time (16:30 in Argentina). This match is inevitably changing the club’s modern history forever, which is, rather than a source of concern, a reason to be excited.