I’m not sure there is an adequate word in the English language to characterize the last eight minutes of Saturday’s opening day at the 124th Argentine Open, so let me put it to you this way: four yellow cards, a key player benched and a six-goal scoring frenzy that almost turned the raven-haired Novillo Astradas grey.
La Aguada Las Monjitas defeated La Albertina Abu Dhabi 13-10, but the final numbers on the scoreboard were not an accurate reflection of what went down on the field. A three-goal spread suggests a fairly balanced game, right? Not this time.
The entire game, except for the last eight minutes (more about that later), showcased a command performance by La Aguada LM. They completely controlled possession and outshot La Albertina 15-3 in first half. La Aguada was highly effective at passing, while La Albertina struggled to string together two consecutive passes and get past Miguel Astrada at the back.
Ignacio Novillo Astrada was great at coming forward and was the key player on the La Aguada LM attack. He scored three amazing goals from distance, two of them launched almost from the sideboards. Alfredo Bigatti, in his debut Argentine Open, was as excellent as ever subbing for Eduardo Novillo Astrada. Bigatti scored three goals (on eight shots) and helped defensively when Ignacio went forward.
La Aguada LM established their dominance from the get-go, stretching a one-goal lead at the end of the first chukker (2-1) to six at halftime (9-3). They continued to lead by at six (at one point seven) goals throughout the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh chukkers. By then you couldn’t help but cringe in sympathy for La Albertina. But then things suddenly got dicey for La Aguada. That’s when the real battle (and the shenanigans) began.
It didn’t take long for field 1 to turn into a sea of yellow—cards, that is. (Had the game gone on much longer, there might have been enough in the deck to stop and play a hand of Truco.) The imbroglio started late in the seventh, with the game getting increasingly physical. Ignacio Toccalino threw a cross-hook on Alfredo Bigatti. The foul happened in traffic, so almost everyone on the field had something to say about it. Amidst the brouhaha, an incensed Alejandro Novillo Astrada launched into a tirade, pointing repeatedly at Ignacio Toccalino. Santiago Toccalino was none too happy with that. He jumped into the mix with Alejandro, and they both drew yellow cards.
This was Alejandro’s second yellow of the game and also his second major fracas with Ignacio Toccalino, who also earned a yellow card along the way. During play on the boards in the second chukker, the intensity heated up. With Alejandro to his side, Toccalino swung and his elbow appeared to jab Alejandro in the head. Alejandro got called for the foul and made it clear he thought it should have been the other way around.
Alejandro’s second foul, which came with 30 seconds left in the seventh chukker, was far more problematic—both for him and his team. Under the rules a second yellow card requires the player to sit out the next two minutes, which meant La Aguada LM would only have three players on the field for the rest of the seventh chukker and the first minute-and-a-half of the eighth. During Alejandro’s absence his old pal Ignacio Toccalino took the opportunity to score.
After the yellow card debacle La Albertina started getting more aggressive, playing a faster running style that worked. They scored six consecutive goals: Alfredo Cappella (3 goals), Ignacio Toccalino (2) and Fran Elizalde (1).
That narrowed the gap to two goals (12-10) with two-and-a-half minutes left in the game. La Aguada was tense but held it together, topping it off the day with a final goal for a 13-10 victory.
-Ignacio Novillo Astrada shot 4/6 from the field.
-La Albertina outscored La Aguada 6-2 in last two chukkers.
-Each team won 12 throw-ins total.
-La Albertina won all 5 throw-ins in final chukker.
-Each team committed about the same number of fouls (La Aguada LM 11, La Albertina 10).
Photos by Katerina Morgan