Football:Late blast earns Boca Jersey Tournament Trophy
BOCA Juniors lived up to their favourites tag by lifting the Jersey U21 International Football Trophy at Springfield yesterday - but they were pushed all the way by a superb defensive display from the battling Bhoys of Celtic.
A superbly competitive end to the tournament - the final in all but name - remained goal-less until five minutes from time when Boca's Enzo Gutierrez thumped home a pass from fellow substitute Matias Rodrigues from 15 yards out.
Just how much the match meant to both sides was underlined a minute later when tempers boiled over following the award of a Boca free-kick, creating a mêlée of players, pushing, pulling and holding.
The match, which had been played in a tough, but generally sporting manner, did not deserve the unedifying spectacle, although it was hardly a violent confrontation.
Referee Barry Friend restored order with a yellow card to Celtic captain Charles Mulgrew - and a red to Boca No 4 Bernardo Gagnolo who had previously been booked.
Boca held on to the win to avoid the lottery of penalties and they must have been mightily relieved to have done so, as the form of the Celtic 'keepers - Scott Fox and his half-time replacement Sandy Wood - had been superb.
Boca created the better openings more often as the game, in front of a crowd that grew to around 1,400, wore on.
But Celtic were disciplined, organised and defiant.
Boca's much vaunted wing men, Ariel Colzera and Marcos Mondaini, had to work extremely hard for any openings and many of Fox's opportunities for action in the first-half came from distance - one save from Armano Monteverde being particularly memorable.
Celtic were playing the pressing game and doing it very well, with Michael McGlinchey, Jim O'Brien, Charles Grant and Craig Reid putting in fine shows.
But Boca were stronger than the very young Celts and their pressure seemed certain to pay off, even though time after time vital blocks were made, particularly from the dozen corners the South Americans forced.
The tension grew as penalty kicks for tournament glory grew closer, with the move-of-the-match giving Colzera a glorious chance that he lifted over the bar.
Matais Cahais and Ezequiel Scarione also both missed when it looked easier to score, but when shots were on target Wood was invariably equal to them.
Boca had two players booked for dissent, Cahais and Jara, as nerves started to fray.
Colzera also followed them into the book following a challenge from behind.
But then came the goal that lifted the lid on the emotions, and gave Boca their second - and well deserved - Jersey success in as many years.
Celtic manager Willie McStay was quite rightly upbeat shortly afterwards: 'I'm proud of the lads.
They were really up for it and made it extremely hard for what is a very good Boca side.
There were some tremendous contests going on out there.
I've got to be happy with that performance.' One of the Boca support staff was also booked for running onto the pitch during the late fracas, an intervention that clearly annoyed the Celtic manager: 'That was disgraceful,' he said.
'The coaches should be trying to calm the players down, not make matters worse.' But, that incident apart, it was clear at the final reception that both sides had great respect for each other.
Boca coach Jorge Benitez, speaking through an interpreter, said he was pleased to win the tournament and would welcome an invitation to return next year.
Boca Juniors: Diego Pave, Ezequiel Vincente, Emiliano Fusco, Bernardo Gagnolo, Armando Monteverde (Matias Rodrigues),Matias Cahais, Ariel Colzera (Eduardo Cagais); Victor Galarza (Enzo Gutierrez), Lucas Jara (Fernando Gago), Ezequiel Scarione, Marcos Mondaini (Rodolfo Gonzalez).
Celtic: Scott Fox (Sandy Wood); Ryan McCafferty, Charles Mulgrew, Charles Grant, Paul Hutchison, Craig Reid, Nicky Riley (Gary Dunphy), Michael McGlinchey (Marc Millar), Kirk Hudson (Andrew Traub), Paul McGowan (Gary Walsh), Jim O'Brien.
Referee: Kevin Friend, Chris Gouyette, Nigel Hammond.
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