Historic Humiliation for River Plate, as Velez Celebrates Clausura Title

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) – Argentine Clausura champion Velez Sarsfield wrapped up the season with a 2-1 win over Racing on Sunday, finishing with 39 points in 19 rounds. Velez clinched the title last weekend and used this victory to underscore its superiority. Lanus finished second with 35.

River Plate, one of Argentina’s most famous clubs, faces a two-game playoff to stay in the first division following a 1-2 on Saturday against Lanus. River has never been relegated – it has never even faced a playoff to stay up – and will play second-division club Belgrano on Wednesday in the first leg. The return leg is later in the week.

Scraping to stay up is a humiliation for River, a club known as “The Millionaires” and as prestigious in Argentina as Real Madrid in Spain or Manchester United in England. River has won 33 first-division titles, 10 more than No. 2 Boca Juniors.

“An Insult to History,” read a headline in Sunday’s edition of the sports daily “Ole.”

Argentina divides it football year into two, 19-game seasons – the Apertura and Clausura championship. Relegation is determined on results over three years, not a single season. River finished this Clausura with 26 points, good for ninth place in the 20-team league. However, it had horrible results in the last two years and has not won the league title since 2008. The club is also saddled with debts reported at $19 million, which has forced it to quickly sell off young talent to wealthy European clubs.

In other results on Sunday, Arsenal defeated Estudiantes 1-0, Newell’s Old Boys won 1-0 against Colon and Banfield and San Lorenzo drew 1-1. Five matches were played simultaneously on Saturday in the final round of the Clausura, all involving clubs in the relegation fight. In other results on Saturday, Olimpo defeated Quilmes 1-0, Argentinos Juniors and Tigre drew 1-1, Independiente defeated Huracan 5-1 and Boca Juniors rallied for a 2-2 draw with Gimnasia.

It was the final match for Boca Juniors 37-year-old striker Martin Palermo, who retires as the club’s all-time scoring leader with 236 goals. He did not score on Saturday. In addition to his goals at Boca, Palermo scored 36 for Estudiantes in Argentina, 25 for Spanish clubs Villarreal, Betis and Alaves – and 9 for Argentina.

The results mean Olimpo and Tigre will stay up next season and do not face a playoff. Quilmes is demoted automatically. Huracan and Gimnasia face each other in a one-off match on Wednesday with the loser dropping automatically to the second division. The winner will face second-division San Martin of San Juan and join River Plate as the other first-division club in the two-game playoff.