South American Football - Independiente end poor run to boost hopes of avoiding drop

Troubled Argentine giants Independiente ended a run of seven matches without a victory when they beat Argentinos Juniors 3-1 for a glimmer of new hope in their battle against relegation.

Reuters

The record seven-times South American champions, 14th in the Clausura championship standings with 12 points from 11 matches, face the possibility of relegation for the first time in June.

They are in the bottom three of the parallel relegation standings, a separate table based on teams' average points over three seasons, and three teams go down.

Independiente's players have suffered under the burden of responsibility and threats from hooligan fans, but Sunday's good second half performance at their Libertadores de America ground brought them some respite.

With Colombian substitute Juan Caicedo giving Independiente new impetus in attack, Leonel Galeano headed them in front in the 52nd minute at a corner.

The Red Devils' demons reared their ugly heads when another Colombian substitute, Reinaldo Lemos, fired a brilliant equaliser into the top far corner from the right 10 minutes later.

However, Osmar Ferreyra was upended in the Argentinos box in the 77th minute and midfielder Rolfi Montenegro put the home side ahead again with a well-taken penalty.

Less than three minutes later, Independiente made sure of the three points.

Caicedo broke through the middle and as he tried to squeeze between two defenders the ball rolled free to his left to young Paraguayan Adrian Fernandez, who steered left-footed inside the base of the post.

Argentinos then had Julio Barraza sent off for elbowing Caicedo in the box at a throw-in and Fernandez nearly scored again but hit the post from a narrow angle in another breakaway.

"What stands out for me is that we didn't slump after their equaliser," coach Miguel Angel Brindisi said at the end of his second match in charge.

"From what I saw in previous matches as a spectator or trainer is that we'd fall at the first blow," he told Futbol Para Todos.

"Not this time. We didn't lose our shape which is fundamental(The players) gave their skins and confirmed they'll fight to the end."

Boca Juniors, another of the big sides in trouble after their worst start to a championship since 1957, lost 1-0 away to Estudiantes on Saturday.

Striker Maxi Nunez tapped home after Boca goalkeeper Agustin Orion could only parry a stinging drive from Colombian winger Duvan Zapata after an hour.

Boca won their opening match in February but have gone nine since without tasting victory, picking up six more points from six draws.

They also have the unhappy record of being the team to hand Estudiantes and relegation candidates Union and San Martin, who crushed them 6-1 two weeks ago, their first wins in the championship.

The victory was not enough to lift Estudiantes off the bottom of the standings, a place they share with Argentinos, but they are not in danger of relegation.

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