Nicolás Miremont –
On Sunday May 29, Argentina’s Transition Tournament came to an end when Lanús beat San Lorenzo de Almagro 4-0 at the Estadio Monumental. As a result, Lanús achieved their second league title in the club’s history.
The rain just would not stop, but nobody really cared, as people in the stands of the Estadio Monumental kept their eyes on what was the culmination of a perfect campaign for Lanús. In the end, Lanús were comfortably able to overcome San Lorenzo’s fragile and improvised tactic. The match was solid proof of what Lanús had produced and managed to maintain throughout the tournament.
Argentina’s Championship – Irregular but Attractive
Although the format of the Argentinian championship changes every year, the Argentine League always fulfils its promise to thrill and to provide quality and intensity.
The Transition Tournament was an experimental format. A 15 round competition, with its 30 teams divided into two zones, it started in February and finished in May. This was implemented with the objective of coordinating the national competition with the European calendar, as well as with the transfer market; it was to take place before the regular longer championship begins after the European summer break.
In the last eight seasons, Argentinian football has produced eight different champions, which is rather satisfying since the country has been aiming to develop a competitive system. Over the past couple of years we saw the reprise of many local idols wanting to give back to the clubs that gave them everything when they were just young sportsmen with big dreams. In recent years, Argentinian football has benefited from the return, to domestic football, of players such as Carlos Tévez, Andrés D’Alessandro, Diego Milito, and José Sand.
Lanús was the Best Side in Every Aspect Throughout the Season
After the twins Guillermo and Gustavo Barros Schelotto left Lanús following last season in order to take charge at Boca Juniors, many thought that their farewell signalled the end of an era marked by relative success and a Copa Sudamericana title. The club’s board, however, went to work quickly and found a replacement in Jorge Almirón—an attack oriented coach.
Almirón gave Lanús a whole new identity as a balanced, disciplined, attacking side. Almirón built his team from goalkeeper forward, as goalkeeper Fernando Monetti proved to be one of the best of the season, conceding only 7 goals in 16 appearances. This was, of course, in part made possible by Lanús’ defence that provided stability to the team.
In midfield Iván Marcone was the main centre midfielder, joined by Román Martínez and Miguel Almirón. Three very different players, but when combined, they provided a blend of solidity with Marcone standing right in the middle of the park and covering the team’s rear side. Martínez was in charge of the creative moments, and the Paraguayan Miguel Almirón showed that he is a star in the making. Up front, José Sand, having returned after 9 years playing abroad, reclaimed his title as Lanús’ star striker. He was joined by the two quick wingers Lautaro Acosta and Pablo Mouche.
The Granate (as Lanús is often called) won twelve out of 16 matches (including the final against Zone 1 winner, San Lorenzo), drawing on two occasions and only losing twice—against Huracán and Racing Club. Lanús scored 31 goals and conceded only ten. Thus, they got to the final by winning Zone 2 with two more matches to spare.
The Final against San Lorenzo – The Icing on the Cake
Lanús had to wait for two weeks before they knew who they would be matched against in the final, which was to be played at the Estadio Monumental. Godoy Cruz and San Lorenzo were fighting to win their Zone in order to qualify for the final. With only one match remaining, Godoy Cruz (33 points) the surprise of this year’s edition, only needed a draw to finish on top of San Lorenzo (31 points), who had been playing badly all season (which included a disappointing elimination from the Copa Libertadores in the group stage). Nevertheless, Godoy Cruz lost away to their rivals San Martín de San Juan, and San Lorenzo managed to draw against Banfield in a rather poor match in which they lost key midfielder Néstor Ortigoza to an injury.
In the final against San Lorenzo, Lanús was dominant, as the Granates were pressing from start to finish. Lanús was also taking advantage of the fact that San Lorenzo was missing Ortigoza. In addition, San Lorenzo midfielder Juan “Pichi” Mercier had a terrible game.
Lanús applied pressure and created numerous chances, while San Lorenzo’s strategy was an utter disaster, with Mercier losing to Lanus’ gifted midfield and committing a great number of fouls when he found himself at a disadvantage. The goal was just a matter of time, and in the 18th minute, Junior Benítez (whom Almirón chose instead of Mouche for the final game), scored a beauty of a header to give Lanús the lead. Having conceded, San Lorenzo had to go on the attack.
This provided many new possibilities for Lanús as San Lorenzo opened up its defence. Although it took a while, the second goal arrived after a great play by Miguel Almirón. San Lorenzo attempted to change the course of play by sending attacking midfielder, Pablo Barrientos, to the pitch, but he was not able to change the course of the game. Instead Lanús extended their lead via José Sand who scored after a low cross from the right wing. The fourth and last goal was scored by winger Lautaro Acosta.
The Best is yet to come for Lanús
When the referee blew his whistle for the last time this season, it was a moment of ecstasy for Lanús’ fans, players, and all the club’s representatives. The party began while it was still pouring rain. The players took pictures with their families, and even paused a moment to remember their fellow teammate Diego Barisone, who tragically passed away last year in a car accident. All the fans will remember this moment forever.
The best, however, is yet to come. Already qualified for the 2017 edition of the Copa Libertadores alongside San Lorenzo and Estudiantes de La Plata, Lanús stand a good chance, for the second time in the club’s history, of winning the Copa Sudamericana that kicks off after the break. Their priority will be to keep their key players. (Defender Gustavo Gómez has received offers from Porto and Beşiktaş and Miguel Almirón has expressed a desire to sign for league rival River Plate at some point.) Lanús will now have to take the next step in the development of the club by forming a team that can compete beyond domestic football.
Nicolás Miremont is a born and raised Boca Juniors fan, but his heart has a special place for Manchester United, Zenit Saint Petersburg and Dynamo Kiev. Miremont loves to support the underdogs. Miremont enjoys watching smaller competitions especially those from Eastern Europe, but also his native Argentina. Follow him on Twitter @Miremont_Nico