Estudiantes outlast Velez to reclaim crown
In winning the Apertura 2010, Estudiantes have become the first side in nine seasons in Argentina to reclaim the league title. FIFA.com looks back at a memorable campaign, which was capped by an unforgettable duel between El Pincha and eventual runners-up Velez Sarsfield.
In the eyes of some observers, Estudiantes failed to reproduce the attractive brand of football with which they won the Copa Libertadores last year and pushed Barcelona all the way in the FIFA Club World Cup final. However, the statistics left no argument that the men from La Plata enjoyed a superb campaign. They won 14 of their 19 games and lost just two. They also boasted the second-most prolific attack with 32 goals, and its meanest rearguard with just eight against. Moreover, Alejandro Sabella's team won all nine of their home games, conceding a solitary goal, a testament to their defensive solidity and ruthless finishing.
Estudiantes needed to be that good because Ricardo Gareca’s brilliant Velez Sarsfield side left them with little margin for error. El Fortín scored one goal more and conceded one more than the eventual champions, and their tally of 43 points would have given them the title in any of the four previous seasons. Completing the top three were Gustavo Alfaro’s well-drilled Arsenal outfit, who collected 32 points to equal their best-ever campaign in the top flight.
Unfancied Godoy Cruz followed up third place in the Clausura 2010 with fifth this time around, earning a prize beyond the reach of the country’s so-called 'big five' (Boca Juniors, River Plate, Racing Club, Independiente and San Lorenzo): a place in next year's Copa Libertadores. Honourable mentions should go to two of that esteemed quintet, however. After several seasons in the wilderness, Racing Club just missed out on a place in the continental showpiece, while River Plate proved the pick of the country’s best-supported clubs. Also making a mark were All Boys, who picked up 26 points to finish in a healthy eighth position on their return to the upper tier.
Two sides to fall way short of their pre-season expectations were Boca Juniors and San Lorenzo, who finished 11th and 13th respectively. The same could also be said fellow mid-table dwellers Argentinos Juniors and Banfield, the two teams to win the title prior to Estudiantes.
Players of the season
Aside from their natural born leader Juan Sebastian Veron, the champions were also inspired by the likes of deep-lying forward Enzo Perez, midfielder Rodrigo Brana, striker Gaston Fernandez (the scorer of six goals) and defender Gabriel Mercado. Everyone chipped in for El Pincha, however, with 15 different players finding the back of the net at some point or other.
Playmaker Maximiliano Moralez shone for Velez, as did front men Santiago Silva and Juan Martinez, who hit 21 goals between them. Among the other goal-getters to impress were Luciano Leguizamon (Arsenal), Mauro Matos (All Boys), Denis Straqualursi (Tigre) and Martin Palermo (Boca Juniors), who notched the 300th goal of his career, while attacking midfielders David Ramirez (Godoy Cruz) and Giovanni Moreno (Racing Club), and goalkeeper Sebastian Peratta (Newell’s Old Boys) also starred.
For the second time since his arrival in Argentina, Uruguayan striker Santiago Silva ended an Apertura season as top scorer. Unlike the 13 goals he struck for Banfield in 2009, however, his haul of 11 was not enough to take Velez over the line first. El Tanque, who has never won a cap for his country and turned 30 last week, showed that he still possesses the explosive power and sublime finishing skills that have made him one of the most feared marksmen in South America.
Did you know?
Estudiantes are the fourth team since the introduction of the short-season format in 1991 to win the title with 45 points, and the first to do so since San Lorenzo in the 2007 Clausura. Only three teams have scored more points: River Plate and Velez Sarsfield collected 46 in the Apertura 1996 and Clausura 1998 respectively, while Manuel Pellegrini’s San Lorenzo amassed 47 in the Clausura 2001.
What they said
“This is glory, and glory’s something you can’t put a price on. This triumph could not have been achieved without the players, the directors, my assistants and a little bit of mystical intuition. We needed some of that to analyse our problems, overcome them and reach our objective. I’ve no doubt everyone down at Velez is hurting, but there can only be one champion. They had a fantastic campaign all the same, and in their own way they’re champions too,” Alejandro Sabella, Estudiantes coach.
1. Estudiantes (45 points)
2. Velez Sarsfield (42)
3. Arsenal (32)
4. River Plate (31)
5. Godoy Cruz (29)
1. Santiago Silva (Velez, 11 goals)
2. Denis Stracqualursi (Tigre, 10)
Juan Martinez (Velez, 10)
3. Mauro Matos (All Boys, 8)
Martin Palermo (Boca Juniors, 8)
David Ramirez (Godoy Cruz, 8)
Copa Libertadores 2011 qualifiers
Argentinos Juniors (Clausura 2010 champions)
Estudiantes (Apertura 2010 champions)
Velez Sarsfield (accumulated standings)
Godoy Cruz (accumulated standings)
Independiente (Copa Sudamericana champions)