Racing end Boca unbeaten run and send a message to the rest of the league

Racing are back in the title race after a win away at La Bombonera, which sees Racing climbing the league table and now sitting only 2 points behind the league leaders. Coudet’s team had to work hard to get their 5 th win from the last 7 matches (2 draws) confirming the turnaround after the heavy defeat against River early this season.

Racing arrived at La Bombonera after a week where the main talking point was not the visit to La Boca but the potential departure of Coudet to Inter from Porto Alegre (Brazil). Despite rumours indicating the move is not completely off the table and may be happening in December, Coudet confirmed in an awkward press conference that he rejected the offer as he has a commitment with Racing, however, the manager refused to comment further on what would happen during the next Argentina summer break.

Luckily for Coudet, the team didn’t seem to be affected by the rumours and put in a solid tactical performance on Friday night.

Alfaro’s alternative side started with a 4-1-4-1 and was the better team during the initial 15 minutes playing a high pressing game, at which point the team from Avellaneda settled, taking control of possession and mixing their usual passing game with some long balls that by-passed Boca’s high press. Boca’s response was to sit deeper and rely on Villa’s pace to find some space on Racing’s defense left hand side; however, this did not stop Racing from controlling the game.

Racing’s improvement materialised in the 27th minute. Domínguez played a long ball into Cristaldo, Boca’s defender Alonso reached the ball first but got on the wrong side of Cristaldo. Alonso’s clearance ended up falling into Rojas who, with plenty of space and time, put a clinical pass to Cristaldo whose run caught Alonso out of position. Cristaldo got into the penalty box and waited for Zaracho, who made a run towards the near post anticipating a flat- footed Goltz. Zaracho’s first time finish left Andrada with no time to react and put Racing 1-0 ahead.

The 20-minute phase that followed Racing’s opening goal saw the best of Coudet’s team during the night. Rojas and Lisandro López raised their game and could have inflicted further damage to Boca. A cross from Rojas was headed by Cristaldo, demanding a brilliant reaction from Andrada. In the follow up Alonso managed to block Zaracho’s shot and prevented a second Racing goal before half time.

Despite the dominance shown by Racing during the last 30 minutes of the first half, Coudet opted for a more conservative and tactical approach during the second half allowing Boca to control possession. Alfaro sent Zárate onto the pitch after half time (replacing Obando)  to play upfront alongside Soldano, switching to a 4-1-3-2 formation. Despite the introduction of the former Vélez striker and the change of formation, Coudet’s good tactical defensive set up exposed Boca’s limitations as they struggled to generate any clear chances, at which point Alfaro took additional risk, replacing Campuzano and bringing on former Argentinos Juniors attacking midfielder, MacAllister. Coudet quickly responded by taking Zaracho off and introducing Mauricio Martínez to play alongside Díaz in centre midfield, switching to a 4-4-2 formation.

As Boca continued to fail in their pursuit and with Racing’s defensive structure seemingly unbreakable, Alfaro made a final move by introducing an additional N 9 for the final 15 minutes of the game; Hurtado replaced Villa, who by that point was not having the same impact in the game as during the first half. Again Coudet reacted almost immediately by sending Orban onto the pitch and taking off an exhausted Lisandro Lopez. Racing switched to a 5-4-1 to avoid being outnumbered in the penalty box on crosses and long balls aiming for Soldado and Hurtado.

Coudet’s plan paid off and Racing kept their one goal lead and clean sheet until the final whistle. Although it could be said that Boca rested most of their key players ahead of Tuesday’s Copa Libertadores second leg semi-final against River, it is a very important victory for Racing that sends a message to the rest of the teams in the league.

Despite aspects of the game needing improvement, Racing’s upcoming fixtures suggest the team has a chance to arrive to the summer break as a title contender, something that 2 months ago would have been impossible to imagine.   

Although what will happen with Coudet and Inter remains to be seen, Coudet’s attitude on the sideline during the game and his declarations in the immediate post-match interview are clear statements that he still believes in the project and wants to win more titles with Racing. The manager also showed good tactical awareness and game management in an important fixture, two things he has been criticised for in the past, probably excessively.

Racing Club (E. Coudet) 4-1-3-2: Arias; Pillud, Domínguez, Sigali (Donatti), Soto; Díaz; Montoya, Zaracho (Martínez), Rojas; López -c- (Orban), Cristaldo

Boca Juniors (G. Alfaro) 4-1-4-1: Andrada, Weigandt, Goltz (c), Alonso, Fabra; Campuzano; Villa (Hurtado), Reynoso, Capaldo (MacAllister), Obando (Zárate); Soldano

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