Racing Club de Avellaneda made an unconvincing start to their title defence, being held to a goalless draw by Union de Santa Fe at El Cilindro on Friday night.
Racing and Union have played some incredible fixtures against one another in recent years, with a 6-3 goal fest in favour of Racing in 2016 the pick of the bunch, but this was not quite the classic many hoped for.
Racing, with a number of changes from Sunday’s shock defeat to Boca Unidos were without their best center back Alejandro Donatti, new signing Matias Rojas starting in place of Pulpo Gonzales and Churry Cristaldo in place of Dario Cvitanich.
The Champions started the contest like they played out many games last season, in control of the game and playing much of the game inside the opposition’s half. Unlike much of last season Racing lacked the cutting edge and composure of finishing to make their dominance count in the opening 45’ minutes.
In fact it would be the visitors who had the clearest chance of the first half. Racing failed to clear a cross into the box and in the resulting scramble the ball broke to Yeimar Gomez whose one time effort struck the inside of the post and was cleared away by the Avellandan defenders.
Much of Racing’s threat, like it had been on Sunday, was down the right hand side, with Ivan Pillud, promoted back to starting right back, again busting a gut and putting excellent crosses into the box that the forwards were unable to convert. Lisandro “Licha” Lopez was also excellent in the final third, laying passes off notably to Rojas and Cristaldo who squandered their early efforts.
Matias Rojas impressed in the midfield for Racing, he was more than willing to drop deep to collect the ball and tried to create opportunities through patience passing from that withdrawn position.
Racing were looking suspect in defence and overly reliant on the runs of Pillud down the right flank. When Racing pressed the play, they pressed as individuals and not in swarms, which meant players were out of position and therefore susceptible to a counter attack from Union, which is the game Madelon’s men looked set up to play.
Racing maintained their hold of the contest in the second half, but remained vulnerable to counter attacks from the disciplined Santa Fe side.
Union had another clear chance to open the scoring 15 minutes into the half, Marcelo Diaz underhit a pass to Sigali that was picked up by an Mendez, Sigali was able to regain possession but it was lost once more but Corvalan’s resulting shot trickled harmlessly wide.
Racing upped the intensity, making two changes, replacing Pillud and Rojas with Pulpo Gonzales and Walter Montoya respectively, the latter making his club debut.
The two sides continued this well rehearsed dance, Racing, with slow midfield build up, shift to the wing, cross, cleared, whilst Union would look to pounce on loose passes and exploit space for quick counter attacks.
With ten minutes left Chacho Coudet rolled the dice for Racing, bringing off the exhausted looking Marcelo Diaz and replacing him with experienced goalscorer Dario Cvitanich.
Immediately Racing were energized, working Moyano hard in the Union goal, first, Gonzales collecting a pass on the counter, opening his body and shooting forcing a smart save winning his side a corner. Then Zaracho would collect the ball on the corner of the box and once again force a fine save from Moyano.
As the game neared 90 minutes, both sides threw players forward in hopes of clinching the winner.
Dario Cvitanich had the best chance of the game to win it for Racing in the final minute of added time. After a failed Union attack Zaracho win the ball in the midfield and sent forward the perfect ball for Cvitanich. Cvitanich was one on one with Moyano but his shot was well saved by the keeper and with that Racing’s best chance for three points was lost.
The referee blew up moments after and Racing will surely see this as two points lost rather than one point won, whilst Union executed their game plan to perfection.
The player of the game was clearly Sebastian Moyano, the Union stopper, who kept Racing scoreless thanks to some smart saves, including the one on one with Cvitanich, a deadly finisher.
Racing (Coudet) – 4-1-3-2
Arias; Pillud (Gonzales), Dominguez, Sigali, Soto; Diaz (Cvitanich); Solari, Zaracho, Rojas (Montoya); Cristaldo, Lopez
Union (Madelon) – 5-4-1
Moyano; Corvalan, Bottinelli, Gomez, Blasi, Martinez; Carabajal (Acevedo), Elias, Mendez, Bonifacio (Rios); Troyansky (Cuadra)