Argentina: Rafaela set the pace in new campaign (+video)
Four games into the new Argentinian football season and a surprise name currently tops the table. Atlético de Rafaela, newly-promoted outfit from the town of Rafaela in Santa Fe province, have started off with three wins and a defeat in the 2011-12 Torneo Apertura and will obviously have to do a lot in order to stay there especially as traditional clubs such as Boca Juniors, Racing Club and defending champions Vélez Sársfield are hanging on their coat tails.
The new boys won at the weekend at home to Club Olimpo by three goals to one and it is games such as those against teams at the bottom of the table that Rafaela will have to win if they are to progress in the top flight. The club last played at this level in 2003-04 where, having finished 19th in the Apertura and 12th in the Clausura, Rafaela had to face a two-legged play-off against Huracán de Tres Arroyos and they were unable to reach the first division again until last season. The only blemish on their record so far is a 3-1 home defeat to Arsenal de Sarandi but it’s the three victories over Olimpo, All Boys and Banfield that will have done the team a lot of good upon their return and if the strike force of Darío Gandín and Alexis Castro, who have scored five of their eight goals so far, can keep up that ratio then it is feasible that the club can perform well this season although it would be asking a lot for them to be considered championship contenders just yet.
It also helped that many of the front runners were unable to win any of their games at the weekend and hand the early-season initiative over to Rafaela. Boca Juniors had the chance to top the table yesterday at home to San Lorenzo but could manage a 1-1 draw. Racing Club and Lanus also blew their opportunities on Saturday night when drawing 0-0 at home to Arsenal and Tigre respectively whilst defending champions Vélez Sársfield lost out in a surprise 1-0 defeat at home to All Boys so the early season gods seem to be smiling upon Rafaela at the moment.
Interest in the Argentinian second tier has increased significantly due to River Plate’s relegation and the Millionarios have begun their 2011-12 campaign well with three straight victories, the only team to have done so in the Nacional B division. Their latest win came at home to Sportivo Desamparados with a 3-1 victory coming courtesy of goals from Lucas Ocampos, Carlos Sanchez and Alejandro Dominguez.