Boca Juniors vs. River Plate Copa Libertadores final to be played outside Argentina

Aerial view of River Plate's Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires, before the all-Argentine Copa Libertadores second leg final match against Boca Juniors was postponed on November 25, 2018. (File/AFP)
Updated 27 November 2018
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Boca Juniors vs. River Plate Copa Libertadores final to be played outside Argentina

  • The original second-leg clash between the two Buenos Aires clubs at the weekend was postponed after Boca players were injured in an attack
  • The tie is delicately poised following a 2-2 draw at Boca’s Bombonera home just over two weeks ago

LONDON: South American football administrators Conmebol said on Tuesday that the postponed Copa Libertadores final second leg between fierce local rivals River Plate and Boca Juniors would be played outside Argentina.
Following a meeting with the two Argentine clubs’ presidents in Asuncion, Conmebol said the match, to take place on “December 8 or 9,” would be at an as yet undecided venue.
The original second-leg clash between the two Buenos Aires clubs at the weekend was postponed after Boca players were injured in an attack on their team bus by River fans with pepper spray, stones and sticks.
Conmebol president Alejandro Dominguez told reporters that “the final cannot be played in Argentina.”
A Conmebol statement moments earlier said that due to the weekend “violence... that put players, officials and fans at risk... it would not be prudent to play the final in” Argentina.
The tie is delicately poised following a 2-2 draw at Boca’s Bombonera home just over two weeks ago.
The second leg had to be postponed after Boca players suffered cuts from broken glass and from smoke inhalation when their bus was attacked by River fans on the way to the Monumental Stadium in the Argentine capital on Saturday.
It was originally postponed by 24 hours before Conmebol announced on Sunday that it was being suspended indefinitely ahead of Tuesday’s meeting at the body’s headquarters in the Paraguayan capital.
Boca’s president Daniel Angelici petitioned the continent’s governing body to award them the trophy, a move his River counterpart Rodolfo D’Onofrio branded “shameful.”
Some potential final venues have already expressed an interest in hosting the derby dubbed a “superclasico,” and the most important in Argentine club football history, as it pits the two most popular teams in the country in the continent’s most prestigious final.
The group that runs the Atletico Mineiro stadium in Brazilian city Belo Horizonte offered on Tuesday to host the match.
That came a day after the Italian city of Genoa cited cultural links between the city and Italian immigrants to Argentina in the early 20th century as it suggested the Marassi stadium as a potential venue.


Inquest begins at LA Lakers as LeBron James misses out on NBA playoffs

Updated 47 min 3 sec ago
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Inquest begins at LA Lakers as LeBron James misses out on NBA playoffs

LONDON: The post-mortem on Los Angeles’ Lakers season has begun after the storied franchise missed out on the NBA playoffs for a sixth consecutive year this weekend.
It was not meant to be like this, especially after the signing of LeBron James — the man who single-handedly dragged his hometown team Cleveland Cavaliers to a championship in 2016 and was instrumental in Miami Heat’s dominance in the first half of the decade.
James’ mercurial talent was often the difference for those two franchises in clutch situations throughout the season, but for all the fanfare on his arrival at the Staples Center last summer, the “James Effect” has failed to materialize in California.
He has often called his own superhuman efforts in the run up to — and during — the postseason the “Playoff Mode,” but even the genius of James was not enough to put his new franchise into the picture.
It did not help that as soon as it became clear they were not going to be appear beyond April 10, made all the clearer by a recent humbling defeat to the league’s worst team (New York Knicks), James has been benched more and more by the management.
And it speaks volumes about the problems at the Lakers that it will be the first playoffs without James featuring since 2005. Not only had he played in the playoffs for 13 consecutive seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat, he had also played in eight straight NBA finals.
Granted, James — a three-time NBA champion and four-time league Most Valuable Player — was adamant back in September that the task of rebuilding the Lakers, who had missed the playoffs for five straight seasons would be a long-term project.
“Obviously, I would love for the team to be in the post-season,” James said as soon as it became clear he and the team would miss out on the playoff party.
“But right now, it’s not the hand I was dealt, so you play the hand that you were dealt until the dealer shuffles the cards and you’re dealt another hand and can do that.”
So what has gone so terribly wrong with the Lakers this year?
A big factor was injuries, not only to James but to other key players, throughout the season.
Everything looked rosy for the Lakers toward the end of December when they thrashed reigning champions Golden State Warriors, but a groin injury to James was a sign of the bad run to come. In his 17-game absence, the Lakers won just six games.
Then Lonzo Ball sprained an ankle in January, leaving the Lakers defense very vulnerable while Brandon Ingram, who had been influential in the team reaching the dizzying heights of fourth place in the Western Conference, was ruled out for the rest of the season due to a blood clot in his arm. Those certainly were damaging injuries.
The Lakers, also, have built too much of the team and its tactics around James. They have a good core of young talent in Ball, Ingram and Kyle Kuzuma, but management has not utilized them nearly well enough. Instead, for the first half of the season definitely, there was too much focus put on James and he was expected to win games almost by himself. Even the greatest player of a generation needs help from time to time.
The boardroom has to take some responsibility, too. Letting players like Brook Lopez (having a remarkable season with this year’s huge surprise package the Milwaukee Bucks), Julius Randle who averages 20 points per game at New Orleans and Brooklyn’s D’Angelo Russell (picked as an All-Star this year) leave was a major mistake on the Lakers’ part.
There will need to be a big rethink in the off-season at the Lakers, but with James admitting a break from the high-pressure playoffs will give him time to “recalibrate body and mind,” you cannot rule out “King James” coming back better and stronger than ever to claim a fourth NBA title and bring back the good times to LA.