Business as usual as Apertura kicks off

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We may be just one round into the Apertura 2010, but there is a heart-warming familiarity to proceedings in Argentina. With over 150 players turning out for new employers – whether they were on the pitch, on the bench or just there in spirit – this was reassuring.

We had the Small Club’s coach moaning about the Big Club being favoured by the referees. We had the referees making shocking - truly shocking - decisions. We had some other decisions that may be categorized as merely ‘debateable’.

We had commentators discussing a replay while, in the real world and in real time, one side was busy finishing off a swift counter-attack down the other end. We had journalists refusing to take part in poking fun at one of the more bizarre inclusions in Argentina’s World Cup squad, because 'he’s my friend.’

We had penalties, red cards, flashes of brilliance, blatant hacks, handballs, and a couple of decent goals. We had 17 year olds making their debut, while 36 year olds won all three points. We had a group of barra brava/hooligans found carrying knives, marihuana, cocaine and LSD on the way to a game, but no arrests were made.

It was business as usual.

Despite this recognised framework of things we tend to see in Argentine football, the first week offered few clues as to what we can expect over the coming months.

The newly-promoted three took just one point between them, but should be satisfied with their first outing. None were on the receiving end of a thrashing. Olimpo took just 19 seconds to take the lead against Banfield, only to ultimately lose 2-1 to The Drill. Quilmes were one minute from losing to Colón but managed to grab a late equaliser, while All Boys were not necessarily the worst side on the pitch in the 1-0 defeat to Racing.

Last year’s champions Argentinos Juniors took just two minutes to throw away their first half lead against Huracán. Estudiantes beat Newell’s thanks to a Juan Sebastián Verón penalty, while Rolando Schiavi was, remarkably, not amongst the weekend’s three red cards after his enthusiastic shoulder charge.

The Big Five managed just three goals between them. Boca had to claw their way back from an early deficit, River scored their winner in time added on, and Racing needed a deflected freekick to fall to one of their defenders to take their three points.

San Lorenzo showed they are far from impressing in Ramón Díaz’ debut in the Ciclón dugout while Independiente, predictably, fell to Vélez. The reason this defeat was expected has little to do with the Rojo’s part in all this, but rather it is the merit of their victors.

Vélez have, like all the other clubs, said farewell to a number of last year’s squad. But unlike their 19 contemporaries in Argentine top flight, they kept the same core of the team. Barring the odd change here and there, the Fortress have the same side as last year. Santiago Silva, whose goal – an ‘English goal’ according to one journalist, by virtue of it being a header from a cross – gave Vélez the three points, said “sometimes it’s better not to bring in lots of new players and build the side with players who know each other.”

When you are Vélez and have the quality of players that they do, it is easy. When you are most of the other teams in Argentina - fighting relegation, fan’s expectations, bankruptcy, or all three together - it is not so straight-forward. The next 18 rounds will show which formula is right.

Arsenal 1-2 Lanús
Quilmes 1-1 Colón
Argentinos 1-2 Huracán
Newell’s 0-1 Estudiantes
Racing 1-0 All Boys
Banfield 2-1 Olimpo
River  1-0 Tigre
Gimnasia 0-0 San Lorenzo
Vélez 1-0 Independiente
Godoy Cruz 1-1 Boca

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