Last week Racing Club coach Alfio Basile suggested Monday night’s clasico with San Lorenzo could be his last game in charge of La Academia. ‘Coco’ returned to the Racing dugout for his fourth stint as coach of the Avellaneda outfit in December, but things haven’t exactly gone according to plan for the man who led the club to a Supercopa Sudamericana title almost a quarter of a century ago.
There’s an old cliché in football which says you should never go back. It’s one the 68 year-old has ignored throughout his career: Basile has returned to four different clubs, and also had two stints as coach of the national team.
Spirits were high following his appointment. Basile inherited a squad that had finished second in the Apertura championship under Diego Simeone – the club’s highest league finish since lifting its last league championship in 2001. But Simeone’s brand of overtly defensive football left a bad taste in the mouths of most Racing fans. Basile took the reigns promising introduce a more expansive style of play.
‘I've got a lot of faith in the players that are already in the squad,’ said Basile following his appointment. ‘I have the right ones. Next year will be very good.’
Colombian playmaker Gio Moreno was tipped to recapture the blistering form he showed prior to a serious knee injury last year and much was expected of his compatriot Teo Guttierez, who managed six goals of Racing’s measly 18 goals last season. There were also high hopes for young Paraguayan forward Federico Santander, who returned from a short stint in France to join the club on loan.
But so far 2012 has been anything but 'good' for Racing. Coming into the weekend they had won just two of their opening eight fixtures – a run that resulted in Basile telling the press: ‘I will resign if we lose to San Lorenzo.’
Gio had yet to get going, Teo had managed just two goals and Santander has played a bit-part role. Little changed on Monday night, as Racing went ahead through Matías Martínez header only to be pegged back just ten minutes later by a Emmanuel Gigliotti equaliser – at which point one Racing fan made his feeling clear by thrown both his shoes at the San Lorenzo striker.
Racing did, however, show some spirit; not least when Martínez ran to celebrate his goal with Basile. The players clearly want the coach to stick around, as, it seems, do the fans, who chanted his name. ‘We want to demonstrate that we want [Basile] to stay,’ stressed Martínez. Others at the club, however, won’t be so sure if results continue in this vein. Not only has Basile been unable to find the attacking fluidity the fans were so desperate for, but they’ve lost cohesion at the other end too.
Under Simeone, much was made the side’s miserable return of just 0.84 goals per game. But little has changed in that regard so far, with Racing’s current season average at just 0.89; Simeone’s side conceded just 0.5 goals per game, this season that average stands at 1.00.
The result leaves Racing 14th, just two points away from bottom placed Olimpo.
‘It is an important point,’ said San Lorenzo’s firefighter coach Ricardo Caruso Lombardi – who is tasked with saving the club from relegation – following his debut on the bench. ‘The team responded. I liked their attitude.’
It’s a point they will have to build on. And fast. San Lorenzo now occupy the first relegation play-off place in Argentina’s three-year relegation table.
Elsewhere in week 9, Juan Roman Riquelme returned to help Boca overcome Argentinos Juniors 2-1 at La Bombonera; both goals arrived from Riquelme set pieces. Arsenal kept pace at the top with a 2-1 home win over Olimpo while Newell’s sit third after being held to a 1-1 draw with Godoy Cruz in Mendoza.
Velez are fourth, four points off Boca, following a draw with Independiente while fifth place Estudiantes went down 2-1 to Belgrano in Cordoba. Lanus’ wretched league form continued with defeat to Colon in Santa Fe, leaving them second from bottom.
Racing 1-1 San Lorenzo
Belgrano 2-1 Estudiantes
Godoy Cruz 1-1 Newell’s
Banfield 2-2 Union
Boca 2-1 Argentinos Juniors
Colone 2-1 Lanus
All Boys 2-0 Tigre
Atletico Rafaela 3-1 San Martin
Arsenal 2-1 Olimpo
Velez 1-1 Independiente