Imagine a spectrum arranged horizontally. On one side you have winning. On the other, you have losing. In the middle, you draw.
If this described soccer games, you would need to swing far to the right or left to get three points from a match. Almost prohibitively far. Some people would look at the spectrum and ask “why would I play that game”? It wouldn’t be tic-tac-toe bad, but it’d still be alarming: A huge swathe in the middle where, while you might clearly be better than break even, you’re not doing enough to guarantee you win.
On Sunday, Colón tested that range and found they it’s far too easy to be pegged back into that tic-tac-toe-ian swathe.
Rewind to Sunday evening’s game, then fast-forward to the 88th minute, long after Colón and River Plate were playing like the match was over. Sixteen minutes earlier, Ruben Ramirez had come off the bench to score a goal that looked to send Colón back to the top of the Primera. While it would also snap River’s three-match unbeaten run, the visitors seemed to accept it. After all, they were on the road at the Primera’s top team. A year ago, they were in the second division.
Then, River won a late corner kick. Meh, who cares? This always happens when a team is chasing the match. No biggy.
And Colón did their part to stick to the script. When the corner swooped in from the right, they headed it clear. Again, no biggy, though in clearing to a River Plate player 28 yards from goal, they had started the most dangerous play in soccer.
Why isn’t more made of the second ball in from a corner? Perhaps it’s because there’s little chance to say “gotcha.” Ball’s cleared, line pushes – you can’t fault the tactical logic. But the process leaves a long moment where the defense is ill-prepared to deal with a ball behind the line, and with the goalkeeper guarding against a shot coming back on goal, he can’t cheat and play for a ball over the top. Instead, the defense sits like sucks on a pond, ready for Elmer Fudd in the cattails to let lose his buckshot.
On Sunday, midfielder Leonardo Ponzio played Elmer Fudd, looping a ball into the left of the area. As Colón pushed, defender Germán Pezzella wet forward, was onside as four of this teammates were off, and collected before an easy finish past Diego Pozo for the tying goal.
Colón rushed the referee after the match, but they didn’t have a case. Pezzella was clearly onside. More likely, they were venting because of the scale. Though River may have been the better side for the first hour, Colón had pushed the meter far enough toward “win” to expect three points, But at the end, River nudged it just back, putting the needle in that huge, broad “draw” zone.
And sometimes, that’s hard to accept.
Players you’d want on your team (starters):
Colón: Bruno Urribarri, Ronald Raldes
River Plate: Germán Pezzelli, Cristian Ledesma, Leonardo Ponzio
Want more like this? Um, OK: More soccer notes.