Partidazo: Gimnasia La Plata 3-0 Atlético Rafaela, promotion/relegation playoff 2008-09 - The great escape



At the end of the Primera División 2008-09 season Gimnasia y Esgrima de La Plata found themselves 18th in the relegation table, with only 1.149 points per game over the previous 3 seasons. This meant that they had to play in the dreaded promotion/relegation playoff against the 3rd best team from the 2nd division.

Atlético Rafaela were their opponents and on 9 July 2009 they won their home leg 3-0 with an excellent hat-trick from journeyman striker Aldo Visconti. This meant that Gimnasia needed to win their home leg by three goals to tie the playoff, in which case the teams stay in their own divisions and Gimnasia would avoid their first relegation in 25 years.

The second leg was played on 12 July 2009 at the Estadio Juan Carmelo Zerillo. Things did not go well for the home side, both teams were reduced to 10 men and at half time the score was still 0-0. Diego Alonso eventually scored for Gimnasia on 72 minutes but then "Pampa" Sosa got himself sent off for an obvious elbow in the face.

Gimnasia were in serious trouble down to 9 players and with only 1 minute left of normal time to score 2 goals, then on loan substitute Franco Niell scored two dramatic late goals to save the game and make himself a hero to every Gimnasia fan.

Aftermath

Niell may have made himself a hero to the fans but the management had no such sentimentality, they refused to pay Argentinos Juniors asking price and he left without ever playing for Gimnasia again. The following season the two teams finished in identical league positions, requiring another playoff between the two clubs. Atlético's hearts were broken again in 2009-10, and in only slightly less dramatic circumstances (1-0 and 1-3).

For more great games involving South American teams, check out the rest of the Partidazo series.

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