Juan Román Riquelme. The name synonymous with Argentine number 10’s. The name that flows of your tongue like a passing move orchestrated by Juan Román himself. The ultimate enganche. El Diez.
And JRR was at it again last night, providing another master class as Unión Española fell from the Copa Libertadores at the last-16 stage.
Despite a late Santiago Silva goal in the first-leg and trailing 2-1 there was hope for the exciting and expansive Española in front of a packed Estadio Santa Laura. That was until one of the great artists, his right foot a paintbrush, decided on having another performance not to be forgotten. Involved in every goal Riquelme led Boca to a 3-2 win setting up a quarter-final tie with either Fluminense or Internacional.
While having their chances, especially in the first-leg, La Furia Roja, led be José Luis Sierra, can exit the competition with their reputation enhanced, playing a thrilling 4-3-3 that saw victory claimed in Bolívar of all places.
Twenty-six minutes in and the Chileans were in a difficult position. Knowing a 1-0 victory would send them through on away goals, scoring first was important even if they were to concede. However conceding first made for an awkward decision; open up and attack even more or stick with their strategy and hope that they did not concede again.
As Riquelme stood over a free-kick out of the right everyone expected a normal cross but once again the number 10 would deceive, bobbling a low cross to the back post where it was thrashed into the top of the net by Juan Insaurralde.
Five minutes into the second half the game was all but up for the home side. Substitute Franco Sosa lofted a high ball over the Española defence where, under moderate pressure from Riquelme, Eduardo Lobos and Jorge Ampuero looked to have the situation under control. However a mis-judgement from Ampuero in controlling the ball allowed Riquleme to nip in before fooling Lobos to slide in Pablo Mouche to double Boca’s lead.
Unión offered a brief fight back on the hour mark as a cross from a central position by Braulio Leal was only headed as far as Jean Paul Pineda, waiting dangerously in the box. The substitute steadied himself, shifted the ball onto his right foot and curled a ferocious shot into the far top corner. Game on.
Well for six minutes it was.
An Española corner was cleared to the edge of the box and then closed down as azual y oro shirts swarmed forward. Darío Cvitanich swept the ball Riquelme-esque out right to Mouche with the outside of his right foot. Mouche, who performed well off the bench in the first-leg released Riquelme who was making progress down the left. Then it was a matter of footballing genius at work. Skipping past three challenges in the box, Riquelme toyed with the defence then dispatched past Lobos. Game over.
The goal was Riquelme’s 23rd for Boca in the Copa Libertadores, equalling former team-mate and sparring partner’s goal haul for Boca in the competition (via Riquelme obsessive Rupert Fryer).
There was still one last offering from Española as Emiliano Vecchio’s driving run into the Boca Juniors box was halted illegally by Insaurralde. Emmanuel Herrera stepped up in search of his 6th goal of the competition but his weak penalty was palmed away by Agustín Orión as far as Sebastián Jaime who turned in the rebound.
While Unión look to confirm their place in the Apertura play-offs and a return to continental competition Boca progress and with Riquelme in his current form further records could fall.