|Angel Cappa left 33 time league champions River Plate|
after a run of 7 league games without a win.
The sacking cannot detract from the amazing result on Sunday evening when All Boys beat one of the giants of Argentine football in their first season after emerging from a 30 year exile in the lower leagues of Argentine football.
Cappa knew that he was taking on a tough task when he accepted the job in April because River Plate were certain to end up in the relegation dogfight this season after 2 consecutive poor seasons had dragged them down to the bottom position amongst the 17 teams that remained in the division at the end of last season. River had recovered from a 1-5 tonking on their own pitch by minnows Tigre on the last day of Clausura 2010 to make a positive start to the Apertura tournament winning four of their opening six games. They looked so good that even respected football journalists talked about them as potential champions.
Things changed for the team after a well fought 1-0 away defeat to Newell's Old Boys, they went on a streak of 5 draws in five games when averaging one point per game is not an option. They were meant to face eternal rivals Boca Juniors in the Superclásico last weekend but the fixture was postponed after the death of former President Néstor Kirchner.
Boca Juniors are also experiencing a massive slump in form and a win for River Plate in the derby game could have given Cappa enough capital to survive an unexpected defeat in the following game. However as it stands the biggest game in Argentine football didn't happen and River Plate are now in deep trouble. Newly promoted Olimpo de Bahía Blanca have recovered from their early season jitters to launch a realistic survival bid, winning two of their last three games. Another couple of wins for Olimpo could drop either Gimnasia de La Plata or River Plate into the automatic relegation places. It would be totally unacceptable for one of the three remaining never-relegated sides (the other two being Boca Juniors & Independiente) to find themselves in such a position.
Angel Cappa had managed a number of clubs before River Plate without much success. He won much acclaim when his Húracan side featuring the young talents of Javier Pastore and Matiás Defederico and elegant midfielder Mario Bolatti came heartbreakingly close to winning the Clausura 2009 on a foundation of exhilarating attacking football only to be cruelly beaten in an extraordinary game on the last day of the season.
Despite the fact that he parted company with Huracán after a run of poor results after the loss of his 3 key players he was given the chance to manage the most successful team in the history of Argentine domestic football. Questions were asked at the time, about Huracán's poor run of form, the fact that he had never won a major trophy and about whether exhilarating attacking football is the best way to ease relegation concerns. The answers were reasonable, Huracán lost their 3 best players and Cappa would not have his River Plate squad decimated, that for the first time in decades River Plate's main priority would be survival not silverware and that there is nothing wrong with pacey attacking football if the defence functions too.
Cappa was sacked by River Plate President Daniel Passarella who is no stranger to managerial departures; he was on the other side of the situation only 3 years ago when he had no choice but to resign as manager after his River Plate team were humiliatingly knocked out of the Copa Sudamericana by Argentine minnows Arsenal de Sarandí at the semi-final stage.
In his defence, Cappa had only been in charge of the club for 18 games and was in the process of rebuilding the team in his own style. He had secured half of the available points during his tenure, a massive improvement on the disastrous run of results amassed by Diego Simeone and Néstor Gorosito before him. Had River Plate continued to get 1.5 points per game until the end the season they would have had a very good chance of survival
Speculation has already begun about potential replacement's the favourites being Américo Gallego (only the 2nd manager ever to win the Argentine league with 3 different clubs after José Yudica) and Nery Pumpido (who famously led Paraguayan side Olimpia to their 3rd Copa Libertadores title). The outside candidate is unorthodox manager Marcelo Bielsa who recently resigned as the manager of the Chile national team.