Argentinos snatch lead from Estudiantes

BUENOS AIRES - Defender Matias Caruzzo scored a stoppage-time winner for Argentinos Juniors who came from 3-1 down to beat Independiente 4-3 and snatch the lead from Estudiantes in the Argentine Clausura championship on Sunday.

Argentinos have 38 points and Estudiantes 37 with one match to go. Independiente remained on 31 points in joint third place, equal with Godoy Cruz who are at home to Colon on Monday.

A penultimate round of matches that began with Estudiantes holding a one-point lead which would have enabled them to lift the title if they had won and Argentinos lost ended in high drama.

Estudiantes, down to 10 men for an hour after captain Juan Sebastian Veron was sent off for elbowing an opponent, were held 0-0 by Rosario Central after centre-back Leandro Desabato shot over the bar in the dying seconds with the goal at his mercy.

A far more exciting clash was played at the same time across town at the Diego Armando Maradona ground, home of Argentinos Juniors, with the Argentina World Cup coach after whom it was named watching.

Nicolas Pavlovich, who scored twice, put Argentinos ahead in the 26th minute, steering home 39-year-old fellow forward Jose Calderon's precise low cross from the left.

Independiente, who had led the standings for five weeks on a seven-game unbeaten run before taking a mere four points from their last five matches, hit back immediately.

'OLYMPIC GOAL'

From the restart they won a corner on the left which striker Leonel Nunez took, curling the ball brilliantly over the keeper and into the top far corner for what is know in South America as an 'Olympic goal'.

Nunez, a former Argentinos player, did not celebrate the goal and made a gesture as if to apologise to the home crowd. It was the same when he scored again in the second half.

Independiente went in front three minutes after the interval when midfielder Ignacio Piatti crossed from the left and striker Dario Gandin headed in at the far post.

Gandin laid on Independiente's third in the 67th minute for Nunez whose low shot from the right beat reserve keeper Luis Ojeda, who had come on after 18 minutes for the injured Chilean Nicolas Peric.

Pavlovich headed Argentinos, coached by former Argentina striker Claudio Borghi, back into the match in the 73rd minute before the home side scored twice in the dying minutes.

Defender Juan Sabia equalised in the 89th minute before former Estudiantes veteran Calderon laid the ball off to Caruzzo in a goalmouth melee three minutes into stoppage time.

The centre-back's shot was deflected out of keeper Adrian Gabbarini's reach on its way into the net to the delirium of the home fans.

Argentinos visit Huracan next Sunday as title favourites with Estudiantes, chasing a double of Argentine and South American Libertadores Cup titles, away to Colon in Santa Fe province.

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