Monday, March 31, 2008

River Plate: 1 - Arsenal: 0 - Torneo Clausura 2008

River Plate defeated Arsenal de Sarandi yesterday, leaving "los Millonarios" alone at the top of the table. The final score was 1-0, with Rodrigo Archubi scoring the only goal of the night. Despite that, River failed to impress a single spectator who witnessed the match.

The game was slow, with neither of the two sides looking to bring something new to the pitch and defer from each other. Diego Buonanotte and Alexis Sanchez -the two usual electrifying players- made their attempts to improve the game quality, but both failed to complete their jukes and plays. Meanwhile, Ariel Ortega, Radamel Falcao Garcia, Augusto Fernandez, Oscar Ahumada, Gustavo Cabral, and Eduardo Tuzzio all watched the match from the sidelines (all but Ortega were injured). As if that weren't enough, Mauro Rosales was injured after 10 minutes of game time, forcing him to abandon the field and make room for a teammate.

Fortunately enough, the player that took over Rosales' spot was Archubi. Thanks to the ex-Lanus player we weren't left with yet another boring 0-0 vs. Arsenal (the first and second legs of the Copa Sudamericana 2007 brought us this result).

But Archubi shouldn't be the only player to be thanked for the three points: Goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo had another fantastic game and was once again the hero on the pitch. With this clean sheet, he continues a great run of not receiving goals in 7 of the 8 matches played in the Clausura.

Unfortunately, more action happened in the stands on the field. The neverending war between different groups of hooligans continued at Velez's stadium (the game was played there due to a multi-day concert taking place in the Monumental). A group known as La Banda de Gonzalo (fraction corresponding to ex-Los Borrachos del Tablon leader Adrian Rousseau) clashed with "los del Oeste" (group that ruled before Adrian and Alan's era) causing panic and havoc in the stands. The fight was actually much more brutal than some imagine. The final result? Several people injured, and many others arrested. But the question is why did all this happen? It seemed somewhat inevitable, but where were the 700+ policemen who were payed to keep the fans safe? Innocent fans -including children and women- were present at the stadium and shouldn't have to be part of all this. This needs to come to an end. No to violence, yes to football.

Friday, March 28, 2008

An Illness With No Cure

Ariel Ortega had unexpectedly missed yesterday's training session. Much was rumoured, but little was confirmed. It wasn't till today that the news was officially released: Unfortunately, "el Burrito" suffered yet another episode in his fight against alcohol.

This is nothing new. In fact, Ortega has a history of drinking problems. His current era in River began in June 2006, though he was set aside for long parts of the year due to this problem. In 2007 he returned to the team and had a strong pre-season. To make things better, he showed signs of good form and even scored a goal vs. Racing in a Torneo de Verano friendly. Shortly after, though, he fell in the alcohol trap once again and Daniel Passarella decided to seperate him from the team until he recuperated. In March of that year, he returned to the pitch. In June, River Plate's directives and coaching staff both agreed that the best thing to do was to place him in a rehabilitation clinic in order get rid of this illness once and for all.

Everything was on the right track since then, and alcohol now seemed like a thing of the past for the legend. To everyone's surprise a new incident happened yesterday. According to the Argentine press, Ariel had attended a party at a club on Wednesday (River was facing Universidad Catolica, but he didn't play because of an injury) and eventually ran into some alcohol. A few hours later he headed home, but the drinks were irreversable.

It is known that alcohol tends to make people react in extreme ways, and Ariel Ortega is no exception to this rule. In fact, the drinks brought out a rage in him, in what ultimately resulted in a heavy argument with his wife Danesa (physical abuse was rumoured to have happened). The neighbors, being concerned because of the loud noises that were occuring, called the Police to check-up on the Ortega household. After doing so, they took Ariel over to the local San Isidro Police station and held him there for approximately two hours.

Meanwhile, in Nuñez nobody knew what was going on with "el Burrito". The news finally broke out today, when Ortega appeared at the team's training session to explain to Simeone what had happened. He later trained with the team, though the "el Cholo" has decided that it is best for him to not concentrate for Sunday's game vs. Arsenal.

This is very unfortunate news. It is not good that he will be missing atleast one game, but this is secondary behind the fact that his illness has not vanished. We -the fans- may be sad to be missing a key player, but his wife, children, and friends will suffer more from losing an important person in their lives to alcohol. Hopefully this is the last episode of his illness - an illness with no cure.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

River Plate: 2 - Universidad Catolica: 0 - Copa Libertadores 2008

The timeclock had not even reached one full minute, yet the players sporting white-and-red jerseys were already celebrating. The truth is, 37 seconds had passed and Radamel Falcao Garcia (along with rival goalkeeper Buljubashich's help) took full advantage of his opportunity inside the penalty box to put River Plate up 1-0 over Universidad Catolica.

After this rapid pleasant surprise, "los Millonarios" stood their ground a bit more. This does not mean that they stopped attacking. In fact it was quite the contrary: the team had more clear opportunities than the Chileans, but were more cautious than usual.

In the second half River was a tad weaker, while Universidad Catolica some how gained some game. It was an overall boring 45 minutes, with the highlights being Abreu's goal, Luis Nunez's red card, and the injuries of several River players (Falcao, Tuzzio, Ahumada, and Cabral).

The Player Review -

Juan Pablo Carrizo: The future goalkeeper of Lazio does not get tired of displaying very solid performances. He made some top notch saves during the game and didn't commit any mistakes. Having agreed to officially join the Italian club at the end of the season, we must enjoy his world-class abilities while we can.
Paulo Ferrari: The defender often left empty spaces on the right side, causing the Chileans to have somewhat of an entry zone. As a side note, an important directive of Sevilla was in the Monumental analyzing Paulo in consideration of a future transfer.
Gustavo Cabral: The ex-Racing player had a good game and seems to be adapting slowly to the team. With no substitutions remaining, he effectively played a large portion of the second half injured.
Eduardo Tuzzio: Tuzzio did well, though he did commit some mistakes here and there. The negative? An injury caused him to be replaced by Danilo Gerlo. No word on the seriousness of it yet, but certain things indicate that he could miss a few games.
Cristian Villagra: The left-back provided us with another excellent performance. His poor levels are now a thing of the past, and it is no longer strange to have Cristian be one of the best playerse on the field.
Oscar Ahumada: Regular while on the pitch. The defensive midfielder was replaced towards the end of the first half by Ponzio due to an injury. He is expected to miss Sunday's encounter vs. Arsenal.
Matias Abelairas: Very active, especially in the first half. He recuperated the ball plenty of times, and also helped with some good offensive plays at the beginning of the game. As time passed, he began fading (something I had been noticing in the past as well). Does this mean that he is better suited as a substitute than a starter?
Mauro Rosales: The ex-Ajax foward was pure will. Mauro ran non-stop and helped both defensively (more than expected) and offensively. He has been improving lately, and Simeone seems to have recuperated a great player.
Diego Buonanotte: The "dwarf" was -once again- River's best player in terms of skill and disequilibration. He appeared on the left side, on the right side, through the middle. He gave good passes, regained the ball, juked opponents. Buonanotte improves game after game, and has rightfully auto-transformed himself from a sub to a key player.
Radamel Falcao Garcia: The Colombian played more up front, in his usual position. He awarded River with the 1-0 lead at the beginning of the game, and later continued contributing to the team in different ways. Positive image.
Sebastian Abreu: The Uruguayan foward was finally able to present us with a very good performance. He was the man of the match for participating in both goals (great assist for Falcao in the first goal, and he himself scored the second). He also ran a lot more and was very active. Last Sunday he witnessed the match vs. Velez from the bench. Was this what was needed to trigger a positive response from him?
The Substitutes -
Leonardo Ponzio: Replaced Ahumada and did well.
Nicolas Domingo: Nico played his first game since our loss vs. Universidad San Martin. Simeone brought him in to re-gain the ball and bring strength to the midfield. Not only did he do that, but a great run by him led to our second goal.
Danilo Gerlo: Decent match.

The Goals of the Match:

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Velez Sarsfield: 0 - River Plate: 2 - Torneo Clausura 2008

River Plate defeated Velez Sarsfield with a final scoreline of 2-0 to efficiently climb the table and reach the first place spot.

The goals were scored by Alexis Sanchez and Radamel Falcao Garcia. "Los Millonarios" were the much better side of the two in the first half, and the partial score could have in fact been much greater. In the last 45 minutes Velez looked much more committed to evening up the match and actually had clear opportunities to score some goals. River, on the other hand, seemed more relaxed and less clear than the first half, though this can be backed up by the fact that we were leading by two goals (this doesn't mean we should have taken the lead for granted, there could always be bad endings).

The Player Review -

Juan Pablo Carrizo: One of the key players of the game. Many chose Alexis Sanchez as the man of the match, but if Carrizo hadn't made all the amazing saves he did in the second half, Velez could have actually taken the three points.
Paulo Ferrari: Decent game, not much to comment on.
Gustavo Cabral: Improved as compared to previous matches, but still hasn't reached his peak. He hasn't convinced the fans nor -according to his interview with TyC Sports- himself yet. Will he ever become a stable player for River?
Eduardo Tuzzio: Arguably River's best defender today. He constantly recuperated the ball and was more similar to his old self for the first time in a while. He left an overall positive image.
Cristian Villagra: The ex-Rosario Central player gave yet another good performance. Nothing out of this world, but still a good game.
Alexis Sanchez: The Chilean was a key player to the three points we achieved. His contributions to the offense were fantastic.. and so was his help defensively! The team always benefits from his jukes and passes (and today's case his goal), but his pressure to recuperate the ball is also essential. A fantastic player, who will definitely be missed when his loan comes to an end.
Leonardo Ponzio: Regular game for Ponzio. He did not have any flaws, but didn't present any amazing characteristics either.
Matias Abelairas: The leftie did well and was important to the team's positive performance in the first half. Not only did he help with defensive duties, but he also connected the passes and played the ball well to the offensive players.
Diego Buonanotte: Dieguito played another fantastic team and is slowly consolidating himself as an undisputed starter on the team. When he's "on", he's unstoppable, and his speed brings electricity and excitement to the team. During the game he made several great plays, including good shots, passes, and jukes.
Mauro Rosales: The ex-Newell's and Ajax player showed lots of effort to prove himself. He does seem a bit slower than in the past, though he still has his positive contributions.
Radamel Falcao Garcia: Scored River's second goal with a great ground shot. Other than that, he didn't appear much. One thing was clear though: he looked much more comfortable in that position (center foward) than in the position he had been playing lately (more in the midfield; behind Sebastian Abreu).
The Substitutes -
Oscar Ahumada: Diego Simeone brought in Ahumada to help control Velez's offense, which looked much more fired up in the second half. He did well and completed his duties.
Gustavo Bou: Bou is an 18-year old right winger, who made his official Professional debut in the dying minutes of the game. Due to the lack of exposure he had in the game, not much was able to be concluded besides the fact that he looks exactly like ex-River player Luis "Lucho" Gonzalez.

The goals:

The victory has left River as the current league leaders (alongside arch-rivals Boca Juniors) with 15 points. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that Estudiantes and Velez both follow with 13 points, yet both have a respective suspended match.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

River Plate - San Martin (SJ) Finalized

River Plate finalized the remaining 13 minutes of their match vs. San Martin (SJ), with the partial 3-2 score now becoming permanent.

San Martin (SJ) went out with an offensive proposal, though they did not find too many clear chances. River, on the other hand, had less opportunities to score. Despite that, the clearest shot of the match arrived on behalf of Mauro Rosales towards the end of the game.

The three points have left River with 12 points, just behind Velez and Estudiantes (both with 13, though Velez has a suspended match).

As for the new jerseys, the second kit I speculated has been confirmed on River's official website. Still, there is a lack of updates on the third jersey, but some sites seem to indicate that it will be a plain purple shirt (pictured to the right). We'll see what happens with that.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

New Jerseys; Updates on Tomorrow's Match

River Plate presented the team's new jersey earlier on today, with two very important footbalistic figures as the main characters of the event: Enzo Francescoli and Zinedine Zidane.

The jersey (pictured above) is not too different from our previous one and will be used for the next two years. The few differences I noticed are the following:

- The diagonal stripe ends a bit more in the center, causing the team emblem to be right on top of it.
- The collar is black on some parts.
- The back of the collar reads "El Mas Grande" (picture below). Nice way to advertise my blog, eh?

Meanwhile, there hasn't been any official news on the away jerseys, though I had seen this one previously and everything seems to indicate that it will be our second kit (pictured to the left).

As for tomorrow's game, Simeone has opted for an offensive formation and will be looking to cause the San Juaninos some problems. The following eleven will start:

Juan Pablo Carrizo;
Danilo Gerlo-Gustavo Cabral-Eduardo Tuzzio-Cristian Villagra;
Oscar Ahumada-Leonardo Ponzio;
Mauro Rosales-Radamel Falcao-Diego Buonanotte;
Sebastián Abreu

The game will last a total of 13 minutes, and will be played with one half of 7 minutes and another of 6, respectively.

Unfortunately some bad news was made public yesterday: Ariel Ortega and Augusto Fernandez have both suffered more severe injuries than everyone expected. "El Burrito" might be able to make it for next week's game vs. Universidad Catolica, while Fernandez will be out a while longer. One thing is for sure, though: neither of the two will be present on Sunday's key game vs. Velez Sarsfield.

To make things worse, the two will not be the only ones missing some matches. Alexis Sanchez and Radamel Falcao Garcia were called up by their respective national teams (Chile and Colombia) for some friendly matches and will be missing our next Copa Libertadores match. Long story short: at least four important squad members could be out in a tough game for us. Could things get any worse?

Monday, March 17, 2008

River Plate: 0 - Racing Club: 0 - Torneo Clausura 2008

Neither River Plate nor Racing Club were not able to find the net in an encounter played in the Estadio Monumental, which finished 0-0. Of the two sides, the one that was generally distinguished as the best side was the home team (River), due to having many more chances and actually looking to get ahead.

I am still rather impressed by River's defensive record: of the 6 games played in the Clausura so far, we only conceded goals vs. San Martin (SJ). On the other hand, Carrizo kept a clean sheet vs. Gimnasia (JJ), Newell's Old Boys, San Lorenzo, Estudiantes, and Racing Club. This shouldn't be taken for granted, for several of those teams have fantastic offensive players (Estudiantes is the top scoring team in the league this season, Newell's put 4 past Arsenal yesterday, San Lorenzo has the likes of D'Alessandro and Silvera, etc.). Despite the positive side, a worrying fact also arises: 3 of our 6 Clausura games have ultimately finished with a final score of 0-0. Why the lack of goals? It is true that we failed to impress vs. Estudiantes and Newell's, but yesterday we had several opportunities yet failed to score. This has been going on since the Passarella days and is definitely something we must improve on.

Perhaps the most unfortunate part of the game was Ariel Ortega's injury. He was fouled in a quick counterattack and was forced to abandon the field in the first half. There aren't many updates on how long he will be out for, but it isn't expected to be anything serious, though he could miss Sunday's key game vs. Velez.

Highlights of yesterday's match:

On Wednesday we will be making up the suspended portion of the game vs. San Martin (SJ). River is currently winning with a partial score of 3-2, though things could change in the remaining 12 minutes (will be played in two halves of six minutes each). There is no word on whether it will be televised or not(TyC Sports?), though I will make sure to keep everyone updated if there is any news.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Universidad Catolica: 1 - River Plate: 2 - Copa Libertadores 2008

River Plate got through yet another difficult Copa Libertadores match, this time finding a win vs. Universidad Catolica of Chile. Just like in our previous encounter of the tournament (vs. America), we were able to scrape a win in the dying minutes of the game.

The overall performance of the team wasn't convincing at all, though the home side failed to impress as well. Lucily for us, the victory came in the hands of Sebastian Abreu and Mauro Rosales, who scored one goal each respectively.

The Player Review -
Juan Pablo Carrizo: The goalkeeper did not receive too many shots on behalf of the Chileans, and was more of a spectator than an actual player on the pitch. He did his job when he had to, and did not have fault in the goal. The bad news? His good performances have caused Lazio to confirm that he will officially start playing for them after this season.
Paulo Ferrari: In Simeone's tactics he seems to have less offensive duties. Defensively, meanwhile, he isn't the greatest player: the goal we conceded came in through his side, yet he was no where to be seen.
Gustavo Cabral: Like in previous games, the ex-Racing player was lost and was one of the worst on the pitch. He also gave away an easy ball that could have resulted in a goal for Catolica. On Sunday he will be resting, due to being expelled in his last Clausura match (vs. Estudiantes).
Eduardo Tuzzio: Arguably the best in the defense. Nothing fantastic, but solid nonetheless.
Cristian Villagra: More similar to the Villagra of last season than to the one we had recently been seeing. No contributions whatsoever, and he got an unnecessary yellow for pushing around a Chilean player (problems like this could effect us heavily in more important games).
Augusto Fernandez: The best player for "los millonarios". He ran non-stop, constantly went back to defend, and made good offensive runs (our first goal was completely thanks to him). A great game for a great player!
Leonardo Ponzio: Not as good of a game as his last few, but he was still one of our "better" players. He recuperated the ball all the time and didn't give the rivals too much space in the midfield.
Matias Abelairas: "Pitu" showed little to nothing and seems closer and closer to the bench as time passes. He has shown more when playing as a defensive midfielder than a winger, due to him not having too much offensive flare. Rumour has it that Archubi will now start over him on Sunday. This situation seems very similar to last season's with Passarella: he won himself a spot in the pre-season friendlies, played well in the first few matches, and then slowly started dropping after receiving regular opportunities.
Ariel Ortega: Played a role in the first goal, but other than that did not do much. He has been underperforming a bit lately, so hopefully his level of gameplay rises soon for the good of the team.
Alexis Sanchez: The Chilean was just not himself and seemed shy and pressured because of the bad treatment he received from the fans. He left with an injury, though he is expected to be fine by Sunday.
Sebastian Abreu: The Uruguayan scored his second goal with a River jersey, after being critisized for his lack of goal-scoring. Still, the goal was nearly "served" for him by Augusto Fernandez, so not much credit can be given to him.
The Substitutes -
Diego Buonanotte: The "dwarf" substituted Abelairas and helped the team tremendously, just like in our last game vs. America. He brings speed and quickness to our game, and he always pressures rival players (this is what led to Rosales' goal). A fantastic contribution to our squad.
Mauro Rosales: Came in in the second half and scored the winning goal. Besides that he seemed very active and with lots of will to leave a good image.
Oscar Ahumada: Played the last few mintues.. not enough to comment on.

The goals:

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Universidad Catolica - River: The Preview

River Plate will be experiencing a tough away match in Santiago, Chile tomorrow. The encounter will be vs. Universidad Catolica, who currently lie in second place in the Chilean Torneo Apertura.

Diego Simeone has once again decided to return to the 4-3-1-2, which resulted effective vs. San Lorenzo. The eleven players that will make up this formation will be:

Juan Pablo Carrizo;
Paulo Ferrari-Gustavo Cabral-Eduardo Tuzzio-Cristian Villagra;
Augusto Fernandez-Leonardo Ponzio-Matias Abelairas;
Ariel Ortega;
Alexis Sanchez-Sebastian Abreu;

The line-up shown above shows little changes from Sunday's game, though the differences may end up being larger. Ferrari will be replacing Gerlo and Ponzio will be coming in for Ahumada, both adding offensive flare to the squad. Augusto Fernandez, meanwhile, will be substituting Radamel Falcao Garcia (suspended), though Alexis Sanchez will technically be the one taking the Colombian's position.

On paper, foward Hector Tapia is the biggest threat to a possible clean sheet. He is Catolica's top goalscorer this season, and has an impressive track record in previous clubs such as Colo Colo, Palestino, and several other clubs. In my opinion, though, the Chilean's best player seems to be Dario Bottinelli. The Argentine is currently on loan from San Lorenzo -where he was unsuccessful- and has scored goals in both the Chilean league and the Copa Libertadores this semester.

A victory tomorrow will be extremely important, for whoever wins will find the top spot in Group 5. The match will be televised live on Fox Sports en Espanol at 5:00 PM Pacific / 8:00 PM Eastern Time.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Estudiantes: 0 - River Plate: 0 - Torneo Clausura 2008


Neither River Plate nor Estudiantes were able to find the net in last night's encounter between the two, held in El Estadio Unico de La Plata.

The match was rather unentertaining, though the home side was much closer to initializing an open score in the first half as opposed to "los millonarios". River's clearest opportunity came on behalf of Sebastian Abreu, who completely missed a very accessible shot inside the penalty box.

The second half of the game was much more even. Despite that, River failed to leave a good impression, especially in the 80th minute when defender Gustavo Cabral was expelled for an unnecessary foul.

The complete highlights can be seen below:

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

River Plate: 3 - San Martin (SJ): 2 - Torneo Clausura 2008

After a surprising 3-2 lead (surprising in the sense that we weren't winning by more), the match between River Plate and San Martin (SJ) was called off with 9 minutes remaining. The reason behind this was excessive amount of rain, which did not allow the players to run with the ball - literally.

River's goals were scored by Sebastian Abreu, Diego Buonanotte, and Cristian Nasuti. San Martin were able to minimize their partial loss thanks to their shot accuracy (.. and the ref, who completely invented a penalty in the first goal).

The game was pretty much River's to lose. The team had innumerous chances, yet failed to put the majority past the net. Diego Buonanotte and Alexis Sanchez, who were both starters, were brilliant, and were once again the best players on the team.

The goals:

The remaining 9 minutes will be made up on March 19th. Meanwhile, the squad will prepare to travel to La Plata, where we will be facing league contenders Estudiantes on Sunday. Vamos River!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

River - San Martin (SJ): The Preview

River Plate is currently preparing to receive San Martin (SJ) in the Monumental Stadium for the 4th Round of the Torneo Clausura 2008. After losing 1-0 against the same team last season, "los millonarios" will be looking to find revenge and also stay up in the fight for the tournament.

Simeone has decided that it's time for the rotation to commence, and therefore has decided to give some players rest. With that said, we will be seeing the following eleven tomorrow:

Juan Pablo Carrizo;
Paulo Ferrari-Danilo Gerlo-Cristian Nasuti-Cristian Villagra;
Augusto Fernandez-Leonardo Ponzio;
Alexis Sanchez-Ariel Ortega-Diego Buonanotte;
Sebastian Abreu

"El Cholo" has brought back the 4-2-3-1 formation that was so succesful in the Torneo de Verano vs. Boca, yet inefficient in our official game vs. Newell's Old Boys. Technically, though, a similar formation showed us a very offensive side in the second half vs. America on Wednesday and led us to the win. Besides the change in formation, several players will be missing: usual starters Cabral, Tuzzio, Ahumada, and Falcao are expected to rest this game, yet may enter the field later on in the match.

As mentioned previously, San Martin (SJ) beat us last time around, and shouldn't be taken as a "small and weaker" side. This season they got off to a good start, defeating both Argentinos Jrs. and San Lorenzo, but eventually falling to Boca Juniors (undeservedly, let me add). The green-and-black team has shown an organized defense, and only conceded goals in the game they lost (vs. Boca).

Last time around their goal was scored in a magnificent free-kick by defender Sebastian Brusco. Although we must be careful with his shots once again, their best player is considered to be Luis Fransico Tonelotto. The 29-year old striker spent three years of his career in Spain, before returning from the Old Continent. After that, he passed by a few different clubs before arriving at San Martin. Last season he was the club's top-scorer and will be looking to repeat the same achievement in the Clausura.

The match will be shown live on Fox Sports en Espanol at 11:00 AM Pacific / 2:00 PM Eastern Time. Fox Soccer Channel and Fox Sports World Canada will also be broadcasting the match (on tape delay) at 2:00 PM Pacific / 5:00 PM Eastern Time.