Independiente fans demand blood and guts

BUENOS AIRES - The footballing halves of Avellaneda were in very different moods at the weekend as crisis-club Independiente lost again while Racing Club avoided a relegation playoff. Independiente, their fans accusing the players of a lack of heart, continued in freefall with a 1-0 home loss to San Lorenzo on Saturday that left them 16th in the standings with the highest number of defeats, 10 in 18 matches, of the 20 teams. Racing, whose stadium is a mere 200 metres across wasteland from bitter enemies Independiente in the Buenos Aires working class suburb of Avellaneda, won 2-0 away to Gimnasia-Jujuy to secure their first division survival. Both clubs have a rich past, particularly record seven times South American champions Independiente, who won the world club title with victory over Liverpool in 1984 but have lost their way since their last league triumph in 2002. The Reds' fans threw syringes filled with a red liquid on to the pitch at Saturday's match suggesting the players needed a blood transfusion. Supporters' banners said: "Players lacking blood", "These colours don't deserve these mercenaries" and "Get a grip, this is Independiente." The start to the second half was delayed for 15 minutes because fans caused a thick fog in the ground with red-coloured flares and smoke bombs. To add to their woes, Independiente are playing their home fixtures at Huracan in the capital. Their own ground is being refurbished but the December 2008 date set for its re-opening has long passed. Club president Julio Comparada is also a target of fans' ire. He is reported by the sports media as interfering in Americo Gallego's team selection because players the coach wants to drop are transfer-listed and need to be seen in action by potential buyers. Gallego, a World Cup-winning midfielder with Argentina in 1978, has been in charge for 11 matches since his return to the club he steered to the 2002 league title. He has presided over four wins and seven defeats, conceding 14 goals and scoring four in their last five matches.