Previous
Zenit St Petersburg
AS Monaco
0
0
FT
Game Details
Atletico Madrid
Juventus
1
0
FT
Game Details
Malmo FF
Olympiakos
2
0
FT
Game Details
FC Basel
Liverpool
1
0
FT
Game Details
Ludogorets Razgrad
Real Madrid
1
2
FT
Game Details
Bayer Leverkusen
Benfica
3
1
FT
Game Details
Anderlecht
Borussia Dortmund
0
3
FT
Game Details
Arsenal
Galatasaray
4
1
FT
Game Details
Leeds United
Reading
0
0
FT
Game Details
Wolverhampton Wanderers
Huddersfield Town
1
3
FT
Game Details
Fulham
Bolton Wanderers
4
0
FT
Game Details
Puebla
UNAM
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
America
Veracruz
1:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Morelia
Pachuca
1:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Chiapas
U. de G.
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Tijuana
Cruz Azul
2:45 AM GMT
Game Details
Ottawa Fury FC
Atlanta Silverbacks
11:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Bahia
César Vallejo
0
0
LIVE 63'
Leg 1
Game Details
Emelec
Goiás EC
1:00 AM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Atlético Nacional
EC Vitória
1:00 AM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
San Lorenzo
Olimpo de Bahía Blanca
2
0
FT
Game Details
Estudiantes La Plata
Independiente
0
0
LIVE 0'
Game Details
Crucero del Norte
Sp. Belgrano
1
0
FT
Game Details
All Boys
Sarmiento de Junín
1
0
LIVE 75'
Game Details
Santa Marina
Atlético Tucumán
0
0
LIVE 0'
Game Details
Unión de Santa Fe
Patronato
0
0
LIVE 0'
Game Details
Boca Unidos
Colón de Santa Fe
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Instituto de Córdoba
Guaraní A. Franco
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Independiente Rivadavia
Huracán
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Gimnasia y Esgrima de Jujuy
Aldosivi
12:30 AM GMT
Game Details
Cruzeiro
ABC
0
0
LIVE 64'
Leg 1
Game Details
Botafogo
Santos FC
2
3
LIVE 63'
Leg 1
Game Details
Corinthians
Atlético MG
1:00 AM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
América RN
Flamengo
1:00 AM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Atlético Bucaramanga
Deportivo Pereira
1
1
FT
Game Details
Los Caimanes
Inti Gas Deportes
0
0
FT
Game Details
Unión Comercio
Universitario de Deportes
2
0
FT
Game Details
Sporting Cristal
Real Garcilaso
1
1
FT
Game Details
León de Huánuco
César Vallejo
Postp
Game Details
Guaraní
3 de Febrero
2
3
FT
Game Details
Deportivo Capiatá
Sportivo Luqueño
0
0
FT
Game Details
Libertad
Nacional
11:10 PM GMT
Game Details
General Díaz
Olimpia
11:40 PM GMT
Game Details
Mushuc Runa
U. Católica
2
0
FT
Game Details
Manta F.C.
Barcelona
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Olmedo
Club Deportivo Cuenca
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
El Nacional
LDU Quito
12:15 AM GMT
Game Details
Independiente del Valle
Deportivo Quito
12:15 AM GMT
Game Details
Club Petrolero de Yacuiba
The Strongest
0
0
FT
Game Details
San José
Oriente Petrolero
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Western Sydney Wanderers
FC Seoul
2
0
FT
Leg 2Aggregate: 2 - 0
Game Details
CD Dragon
Alianza FC
Postp
Postponed - now being played Wed, Oct 1
Game Details
Valledupar F.C.
Atlético Junior
2
3
FT
Leg 1
Game Details
Patriotas F.C.
Once Caldas
12:00 AM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Next
Jun 27, 2012

River Plate wake from their nightmare

Just inside the press entrance of the Belgrano stand in the Estadio Monumental, as we're waiting to be let out of the ground, two senior journalists, clearly friends and River Plate fans of long standing, bump into each other and embrace, almost in tears. "Give me a hug, mate! The nightmare's over!" one of them says, trying hard to stifle a grin. It's around 5pm on Saturday June 23 and, following a 2-0 win over Almirante Brown, with both goals coming from the right foot of David Trezeguet, River's spell in Argentina's second division is over. The most successful club in the history of Argentina's top flight have won back the right to compete in it next term.

I'm writing this on Tuesday evening, a year to the hour since the previously unimaginable happened as Belgrano de Cordoba, with a 1-1 draw to add to the 2-0 win they'd managed in the first leg, condemned River to their first season in over a century in La B, Argentina's colloquial name for the second tier. As a River fan myself, it was frustrating that tickets for non-members were so hard to come by throughout the spell in the second division, so when a newly-made acquaintance offered to help me get a press pass for Saturday's decisive match, I jumped at the chance.

The fact River's matches remained so popular has been held by some commentators as evidence that Nacional B - as the second tier is formally titled - has gained more attention during the season that's now drawing to an end, but in reality, of course, it's merely a symptom of the fact River themselves remain as popular as ever. They continued to divide up most of the sports pages with rivals Boca Juniors, while the rest of the lower divisions got no more coverage than previously, which is to say very little indeed.

River's presence in the second tier has had knock-on effects though. Visiting fans are now allowed back into Nacional B stadia - or, at least, those stadia that have been passed fit - after a controversial match early in the season when Daniel Vila, president of Independiente Rivadavia de Mendoza and an opponent of AFA president Julio Grondona, agreed to play their home fixture against River in Mendoza's municipal stadium - a 1978 World Cup venue - and designated a stand for 'neutral' fans. Plenty of sides who hosted River - and who might have found a few new fans of their own when the giants came to town - enjoyed a cash windfall.

Needless to say, River's rivals enjoyed the season enormously, especially the bitterest ones of all: Boca Juniors won the 2011 Torneo Apertura, the first short championship after River's relegation, and on Wednesday night will play the first leg of the Copa Libertadores final against Brazilian giants Corinthians. Some small consolation for River fans comes in the fact that Boca relinquished their domestic crown the day after River won promotion.

For the most part, there's an attitude of marking the achievement of going back up but refusing to call it "celebrating" (apart from this correspondent who, I'm afraid to say, spent all of Sunday with a stinking hangover). For a club who've won 33 league titles, finishing first in the second tier isn't seen as a milestone, even though those of us who were there will find it a hard afternoon to forget. I also sense something of an embarrassment, though; there's the knowledge that if River were to celebrate too long and loud, it would only lead to ribbing from Boca and their fans.

All the same, there was no hiding the joy on faces all over the Monumental when, four minutes into Saturday's second half, David Trezeguet exchanged headed passes with Rogelio Funes Mori (who was a good yard or two offside) and hit a brilliant first-time volley low into the corner to finally give River the lead after a dominant but nervy first half.

Although results elsewhere meant River would have gone up automatically even with a draw, and the very worst case scenario was that they'd drop into the play-off spots, there was a real sense from all present - fans as well as players and technical staff - that with all meaningful Nacional B matches being played simultaneously, nothing should be left to chance. So Trezeguet's first strike calmed a lot of nerves.

If you're not familiar with Trezeguet's biography, you might be wondering whether I'm even talking about the same David Trezeguet who's won, among other trophies, a World Cup and a European Championship with the French national team. I am. Trezeguet was born in France but grew up in Buenos Aires - his dad is part Argentine - and was, and indeed is, a fanatical River fan. He's now six months into a three-year contract, and has become an instant fan favourite.

If this match was almost as high-pressure as last June's relegation play-off, then, who better to have up front than a man with that kind of experience? Yet even Trezeguet wasn't totally free of nerves. Last year, Mariano Pavone had a penalty saved during that fateful match against Belgrano; on Saturday, Trezeguet also had one saved that would have put River 2-0 up. He added the second late on, though, to ensure that was nothing more than an anecdote. The second assist, like the first, came from Rogelio Funes Mori (not offside this time), who after being ridiculed by fans for ages has come good at last: having scored a winning goal late in their previous home match, he set up both in this one. Whether the fans cut him more slack from now on, and whether it becomes the start of something better for him, we'll have to wait and see.

The coming days and weeks will see plenty of work at River, who are expected to confirm Matias Almeyda's continued presence as manager on Wednesday. Arsenal de Sarandi won their first ever league title the next day and, even though they're a pretty dislikeable club, it's hard not to a feel a bit sorry for them: the only story in the Argentine sports press was that River have finally woken up from their nightmare.

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.