Boca Juniors' Copa Argentina win vs. Rosario tainted by questionable calls
River Plate have scooped the international titles. The Buenos Aires giants are reigning champions of both of South America's continental club competitions, the Libertadores and the Copa Sudamericana, and are in the semifinals of the current version of the latter.
Meanwhile, River's historic local rivals, Boca Juniors, have swept up domestically. On Sunday they won the Argentine league, and on Wednesday night they added the cup, too, beating Rosario Central 2-0 in the final.
This is a fine achievement by the team starring Carlos Tevez, coached by Rodolfo Arruabarrena, one of a number of impressive young Argentine coaches. But, sadly, some of the shine of the cup win has been stripped away. Wednesday's match was a showpiece occasion, played on neutral ground, in the city of Cordoba, between the best two teams in this year's domestic game.
It was a match that was probably always doomed to fall short of the huge expectations it engendered -- heavy rain had made the pitch wet and awkward. But rather than the displays of any of the players, the match will live in the memory for one of the saddest of reasons: the performance of the referee. When they do well, the officials are rarely noticed. On this occasion, though, Diego Ceballos and his team are left standing right in the spotlight.
There were three key decisions, and all of them went the same way -- in favour of Boca Juniors. The first came some 10 minutes before half time, a moment in the game when Rosario Central were beginning to get on top. Franco Cervi whipped in a free kick, met by Marcos Ruben with a bullet header that flew past the Boca keeper. Celebrations were soon cut short. The flag was up for offside.
The decision could not have been given against Ruben, who broke from deep. But at the moment when the free kick was taken, his fellow striker Marcelo Larrondo was, by the narrowest of margins, in front of the defensive line. It was clear that Larrondo was participating in the play -- Ruben came in behind him, so Larrondo's presence prevented the Boca defence from being able effectively to mark the goalscorer. After much viewing of replays, the consensus of pundit opinion was that the officials had probably got it right -- though few could really have complained had the benefit of doubt been given to the attacking side and the goal been given.
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There seems, though, no doubt whatsoever about the next big decision -- an absolute howler which went a long way towards deciding the outcome. Seven minutes into the second half, Boca right back Gino Peruzzi made a forward break, and was brought down by opposing left back Paulo Ferrari. The foul took place some distance outside the area. But Ceballos pointed to the spot, and Nico Lodeiro calmly slotted home the penalty.
Any chance of a late equaliser was removed in the final minute. Central were, understandably, open to the counterattack. Boca's Marcelo Meli cut through the left side of their defence and squared for substitute Andres Chavez to tap in -- but Chavez was offside. his was missed by the very same linesman who had spotted Central Larrondo offside by maybe an inch in the first half.
All of this is very unfortunate, and clearly devalues the spectacle. Such events only increase the calls for the use of video technology. And when the referee gains more headlines than any of the players, the time may have come for serious reflection on this thorny subject.
Tim Vickery covers South American football for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @Tim_Vickery.