Once again, Boca had to take to the pitch of La Bombonera on a Sunday night while still recovering from a significant hit. Luckily, squad rotation and the decibels of the stadium worked wonders as Boca dispatched an always difficult Colón by three goals to one. The Xeneizes climbed to fifth place in the Superliga table and are now able to concentrate on Thursday’s clash against Cruzeiro. In the following match analysis, we will explain why this was a good victory for Boca Juniors.
Boca Juniors 3 (L. Magallán; M. Zárate; C. Tévez) – 1 Colón de Santa Fe (G. Bueno)
In just one week, Boca’s form went from auspicious to disastrous. The team managed by the Barros Schelotto twins lost to eternal rivals River Plate a week ago – both our match analysis and tactical analysis are available already. Then, four days later, a similar Boca was knocked out of the Copa Argentina by Gimnasia y Esgrima de la Plata, a rival inferior in any thinkable aspect. Still, its unconditional supporters made clear that nothing has changed between them and their beloved club. Even under the pouring rain of a typical Spring storm, many thousands showed up and sang all along during the ninety minutes as if nothing had happened some days prior to last Sunday’s match against Colón de Santa Fe.
If there was anything Boca Juniors was not worried about on Sunday, it was the name of its rival, no disrespect to Colón. The team needed a win against anyone and it did everything to get it. Also, it was probably the only time we will get to see Sunday’s starting XI. A strange mix of regular starters and people, whom some had forgotten about functioned exceptionally well, proving the virtues of the last Boca that played good football are still there.
The hosts exploited the flaws of an alternative Colón, who are more concerned about their continental clash, the same as us. A set-piece executed to perfection allowed centre-back Lisandro Magallán to list his name on the scoresheet at the back post. Minutes later, a fantastic run from Sebastián Villa earned Boca a penalty (converted by Mauro Zárate) and was already a sign of things to come for the Colombian winger that night, who would later be chosen Man of the Match. Finally, Carlos Tévez was sent to the pitch with the hopes of him ending his Superliga strike of nine matches without scoring. He would eventually end the drought with a great strike from the edge of the box after a precisely carried counter-attack. Although far from the level he achieved during his Manchester City days, he is still not only valuable but only loved at La Bombonera. Even after his Chinese embarrassment. If you do not believe me, then listen to the crowd every time he enters and leaves the pitch. Ovations speak for themselves.
It really was a good night for our lads, where everything Schelotto thought of went according to plan. In addition, Boca enjoyed the same fortune that so often steps between them and victory. Overall, three well-taken chances decided a match mostly won and lost in the middle of the park although entertaining and up to the expectations. A protocolary compromise neither team cared much about, but one Boca desperately needed to regain confidence and avoid losing the Superliga train, which seems to go faster every weekend with Racing Club at the top.
The most awaited return and some pleasant surprises
While it is true that Colón were not their best possible self – they did not even play a natural striker – they proved to be decent opposition. Rotation matches always mean a golden opportunity for those players whose future at the club might seem uncertain. It is the case of the once public enemy number one Gino Peruzzi and Agustín Rossi, the recently-displaced two-time champion goalie. It was also Fernando Gago’s first uninterrupted ninety minutes dictating the tempo after his ACL injury last year.
Curiously enough, nobody thought Gino Peruzzi would be featured again in the starting XI. His forgettable performances last year earned him the supporters’ disapproval and anger. Now, having played considerably well, some even suggest he should start on Thursday against Cruzeiro in the Libertadores. Peruzzi’s frequent runs were once crucial for Boca’s unstoppable midfield, for it provided Fernando Gago with an unmarked additional midfielder to broaden the pitch with, an option which is largely missed. During the match against Colón, Peruzzi registered ninety-four touches, more than any Boca player in this edition of the Superliga according to Opta.
Then, dressed in green under the three posts, was Agustín Rossi. The rookie goalkeeper returned to a goal that seems twice as big since the last time he was the first-choice. That was until Esteban Andrada was signed to once and for all put an end to Boca’s lack of a top-class stopper. Rossi’s performance was above average for a long time and he even won two local titles with the team recently, but his progress curve never took the steep rise his first steps in the top flight suggested. His feline instincts still intact: he made two point-blank saves that lit up the Bombonera as everyone choired his name. Some crucial support from the supporter there, always needed. Apart from that, he showed that he can improve what he lacks. Against Colón, he showed a bit of everything the fan was asking from him before getting benched: anticipation, resourceful feet and precise hand throws.
While Andrada’s debut was jaw-dropping, it was also jaw-breaking. The five-million-dollar goalkeeper got his jaw destroyed after Cruzeiro’s Dedé hit him with the top of his head at full speed as he tried to reach for the ball in a corner kick. That will leave him out for a minimum of two months, enough for Rossi to prove that he can compete for his spot.
Finally, there was Fernando Gago’s return as the link between a solid defence and a deadly attacking trio. Since his injury, Boca have suffered considerably because of his absence. You cannot simply find a replacement for someone who used to be captain of Real Madrid. Pintita registered an obscene amount of seventy-seven touches with nearly ninety per cent completion. Gago’s return would help solve a good chunk of problems. Not only would the team have an exceptionally gifted and precise creator at their disposal, but it would also relieve itself from creative duties allowing players like Wilmar Barrios to prescind from multitasking – even more than regularly. Boca must do everything in their power to get Gago and Barrios on the same pitch again as soon as possible.
Este Jueves, ¡cueste lo que cueste!
Next Thursday, whatever it takes! Boca are paying a visit to our Brazilian neighbours Cruzeiro, with the hopes of reaching the CONMEBOL Libertadores semi-finals for the second time in three years. For now, we can breathe even though we are still far from playing well. Witnessing a reaction was key, and the match against Colón was the proof that this project is not yet finished. A task such as Cruzeiro away will demonstrate if Schelotto’s creation is still able to evolve or if it has reached its peak. Next Thursday we shall find out if this team plans to do something about their reputation regarding important matches or if it will choose to shake that image off once and for all. There is plenty to work with, we saw it against Colón. And that was only those who barely play. It is up to the team now.