By DAVID MOSSE
For the first time in its 110-year history, River Plate has been relegated after being held to a 1-1 draw on Sunday in the second leg of a relegation playoff against Belgrano. It all started brightly for Los Millonarios, who were seeking to overturn a 2-0 deficit from the first leg, as Mariano Pavone found the back of the net in the opening minutes.
Pavone was controversially left out of the starting lineup last Wednesday by soon-to-be ex-River coach Juan Jose Lopez. While he added plenty of life to the attack on Sunday, he also missed a crucial second-half penalty kick. Los Millonarios squandered numerous other opportunities to double the lead and were denied another clear penalty when Claudio Perez took down Leandro Caruso.
Belgrano was also fortunate not to have Luciano Lollo sent off for rough play, but the visitors came alive in the second half, equalizing through midfielder Guillermo Farre. Lopez later inserted both Daniel Villalva and Fabian Bordagaray to very little effect, as River sorely missed suspended captain Matias Almeyda in the center of the park.
The final whistle, predictably, sparked angry protests from River Plate supporters, who will expect plenty of changes at the club, beginning with president Daniel Passarella. Boca Juniors and Independiente are now the only teams left in Argentina never to have played in the second division.
Here’s a rundown of all the weekend scores from some of South American’s top leagues:
San Martin moved a step closer towards promotion after earning a 1-0 victory over Gimnasia (La Plata) on Sunday in the first leg of their promotion/relegation playoff. An own goal from Oliver Benitez midway through the first half proved the difference, as El Lobo squandered a number of chances to equalize and now need a win on Thursday night.
Ronaldinho temporarily silenced his critics with a sensational goal and solid all-around display, as Flamengo came from behind to notch a 4-1 victory over Atletico Mineiro on Saturday. The former World Player of the Year has come under fire recently for his sputtering form, which some fans have linked to his partying ways with the club.
Sao Paulo was expected to struggle without Lucas, who is away on international duty, but Paulo Cesar Carpegiani’s side suffered its first defeat of the season in humiliating fashion, falling 5-0 to archrivals Corinthians on Sunday. Liedson scored three times, while Danilo and Jorge Henrique also found the back of the net in the tremendous victory.
Internacional is back on track following a comfortable 4-1 victory over Figueirense on Sunday, which should relieve some of the pressure on Paulo Roberto Falcao. Oscar and Leandro Damiao were among the goalscorers, while Andres D’Alessandro turned in a strong performance in Inter's best display of the season so far.
Here are the other scores from Brazil's top flight:
Atletico Paranaense 0, Bahia 2
Cruzeiro 2, Coritiba 1
Botafogo 2, Gremio 1
Ceara 2, Palmeiras 0
Avai 0, Fluminense 1
Atletico Goianiense 0, Vasco 1
What did you think of this week’s results? Can you believe River Plate was relegated? Impressed by Belgrano achieving promotion? Is Ronaldinho back in business?
Share your thoughts below.