Mi partido favorito: Darren Paul

The first in a new series of articles for RacingClubUK.com where our contributors write about their favourite games, moments, players and more.

My favourite game was the 9 goal thriller between Racing Club and Union de Santa Fe, in the top flight on 7th March 2016. It wasn’t our most important game, it was not close to our best performance and we didn’t even have some of our best players on the pitch, but it remains my favourite game.

It was during the Torneo de Trancision 2016, we were in Grupo B, along with 14 other sides as the league had expanded to 30 teams. It was round 6 of 16, everyteam would play everyother and you would play for clasico home and away. We had Boca in our Grupo, whilst River and Independiente were in the other group. The winners of the two groups would play in a final.

Lanus would spank San Lorenzo 4-0 in the final, held at El Monumental,

As far as I’m concerned it was the most logical solution to a frankly ludicrous situation. It is better than, for example, playing a 23 game season!

The Game

Racing, managed then by Facundo Sava, were playing with a heavily rotated side that day having drawn with Boca in the group stages of the Copa Libertadores in the week and before beating Lanus four days later.

Racing lined up with some fully establish first team players in Saja, first choice center backs; Nico Sanchez, Sergio Vittor, the midfield maestro Luciano Aued, and the captain, the leader, the principe, Diego Milito.

Union had amongst their ranks, former Racing midfielder, the hardworking and perhaps underappreciated Diego Villar, Nelson Acevedo who was on loan from us at the time, Lucas Gamba, and former Boca forward Claudio Raino.

The game itself was not a classic in the traditional sense, it had a frantic quality almost from kick off, and was littered with mistakes, but it was a lot of fun!

Ricardo Noir got the scoring underway for Racing, a nice move from the left flank, a deft flicked pass on from Milito and Noir struck from just inside the area a low finish into the bottom left corner of the net passed a diving Nereo Fernandez after six minutes. You know if Noir is getting goals early you’re in for a good time!

Noir celebrates his opener with Milito who played the perfect pass

Union were level just 8 minutes later, a well worked corner routine was tamely punched out by Seba Saja and Bruno Pitton struck a low shot through a mass of bodies into the Racing net.

Racing were back infront five minutes later, another cult figure of mine, Gaston Diaz with a tidy finish after another were worked move saw a ball headed into space for Diaz to run onto a covert.

The lead would last just five minutes as once again Union levelled. More ugly defending from Racing (it was a feature on the night) saw the ball land at the feet of Riano in the area who had the strength to get ahead of Vittor and stab home past Saja.

On the half hour mark Racing took a free kick from the left touchline midway inside the Union half. The ball had a lot of bend on it and clattered off an Union defender into the path of Diego Milito who opened his account on the night with a simple tap in.

Milito celebrates giving Racing the lead 2-3

12 minutes had gone in the second half when, once again, Racing failed to defend. Future Racing player Mauricio Martinez was gifted as much space as he wanted as he raced into the area and squared a pass across the face of goal for Villar to tap in to level things up against his old side. Villar celebrated with a rock the baby celebration. What a man!

Three minutes went by, Roger Martinez broke through the Union back line but his powerful shot richotted off the post. It was hit with such power it bobbled of the area and Diego Milito thundered it into the net on the half volley. A powerful strike, and it gave the impression that El Principe just was furious that he had to score it, because of how poorly we had defended.

A ten man Union were chasing the game down by one, Emanuel Briton had been sent off in the 68th minute, and this meant the game was even more open that it had been. Racing added a fifth as Roger Martinez, full of energy as ever, collected a pass on the edge of the area, got half a yard’s space from his marker and struck low the right of Fernandez.

The sixth goal was scored by the substitute Licha Lopez. Imagine having the luxury of bringing off Martinez and bringing on Licha! Milito’s low show was excellently saved by Fernandez’s outstretched leg but the ball rebounded off the bar, but Licha, ever the poacher, rushed in to tap in the ninth goal of the game.

Licha celebrates clinching the win

Why this is my favourite game

Football is a results business, but football is also about entertainment and enjoyment.

And that’s what this game was, it was bags of fun! The goals that we scored that night, were generally of a high quality, either in their finishing or the moves that led to them.

The side we had out that day, may not have been the best we had at the club, but when I list my all-time favourite Racing squad, several players in this game will be listed.

Milito, Lopez, Aued, Saja, Sanchez; they all evoke such strong positive memories of the team of this time. These players, week in and week out gave everything they had to defend the shirt, and entertain the fans. In the case of Licha and Milito still do. This means a lot to us as fans, naturally, and is another reason this game is amongst my favourites.

The fact that Racing’s team that day comprised of some players who border on cult status for me, Noir and Diaz, have endeared the game to me more.

The enduring memory of this game was Milito’s volley finish for the fourth goal. He just looked angry, angry that he should even have to be scoring a fourth goal because of how bad the defending had been. The confidence, bordering on arrogance of that moment, to me, showed the quality of that side and hinted at what could have been possible. That we were more than capable of taking sides apart, even with a rotated squad, where could this team take us?

As it happened, that season ended as a disappointment. Sava would be fired, we would crash out of the Copa Libertadores, finish in the middle of our group and Milito would retire at the end of the season. What could have been a championship season, with an excellent, if imperfect squad petered out into a frustrating, but, for the most part, entertaining season.

The 2015-17 seasons will always rank amongst my personal favourites. Those are squads I got to know the best as a Racing fan. As I’ve explained before, the seed was planted back in 2011 but it wasn’t until early 2014 when I started watching matches regularly and the passion for Racing truly took hold.

These teams and players hold a special place in my heart, and this game, with all it’s randomness, dodgy defending and clinical finishing is always close to mind when I think about my favourite Racing players, moments and goals.

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