Boca seal back-to-back titles in Argentina

May 8, 2006

BUENOS AIRES, May 8 (Reuters) - Boca Juniors won the Argentine championship for the second year running with a 2-0 victory at Independiente on Sunday.

Strikers Rodrigo Palacio and Martin Palmermo scored either side of halftime as Boca, one of the country's most popular clubs, wrapped up the title with one match to spare.

Boca, who have 40 points from 18 games, took an unassailable six-point lead over second-placed Lanus in the Clausura championship, the second of two separate league tournaments played in the Argentine season.

Led by Argentina's 1994 World Cup coach Alfio Basile, Boca completed a double after winning the Apertura championship played in the first half of the 2005-06 season.

In other matches, Lanus were held to a 0-0 draw away to Velez Sarsfield and there were mixed feelings for Racing Club coach Diego Simeone.

Simeone's side won 2-0 at River Plate for their fourth win in a row but the result came amid reports that the former Argentina midfielder will be replaced at the end of the season.

Boca have now won 22 titles in the various formats used since Argentine football turned professional in 1931 but are still 10 behind their arch-rivals River.

They have won every competition they have competed in since Basile took over last June, having also won the Copa Sudamericana, played last December.

THE BEST

'This is all down to the players, I have a great squad and we were the best,' said Basile. 'The boys never let me down.'

Mid-table Independiente were missing 17-year-old striker Sergio Aguero, suspended after receiving a fifth yellow card last week, and played second fiddle for most of the game.

Boca strikers Rodrigo Palacio and Martin Palermo combined to produce both goals.

In the 36th minute, Palermo played a clever diagonal pass to set up Palacio, who beat Oscar Ustari with a clinical finish.

Immediately after halftime, Palacio returned the complement as he crossed from the byline and Palermo headed in.

It was Palermo's 11th goal of the competition, one behind Uruguayan Gonzalo Vargas who scored the winner as Gimnasia-La Plata won 3-2 at Newell's Old Boys on Saturday.

Boca had needed only a draw after Lanus, the surprise of the tournament but this time looking over-awed, could manage only a goalless stalemate on Saturday.

At the other end of the table, Racing's revival continued at River, who rested several players before their Libertadores Cup quarter-final first leg tie at home to Paraguay's Libertad on Thursday.

Maximiliano Morales, the smallest player on the pitch, headed home a cross from Juan Manuel Torres in the 38th minute and Claudio Fileppi put the finishing touches with an angled shot just before fulltime.

River striker Lucas Pusineri was sent off for a second bookable offence.

Simeone began the championship in February as a Racing midfielder but was persuaded by the club to bring forward his retirement and take over as coach.

Racing won only one of their first nine games under Simeone but embarked on a winning streak in the last month.