This was one of those games when just about everyone, no matter which team you were rooting for, left the stadium in a swirl of conflicting emotions: respect for Ellerstina in reaching another Argentine Open final; deep sorrow for a valiant Alegría, who came within a breath of it, and that all-too-familiar feeling that has pervaded Palermo 11 times in 13 years: Are we ever going to see an Argentine Open final that isn’t Ellerstina v. La Dolfina?
That’s not to say those two power teams are ever ho-hum to watch, but come on, who wasn’t hoping for an infusion of fresh blood this season? Especially with Alegría so hungry for the win and so well prepared. They came close to toppling Ellerstina twice in high-stakes games this season, with a two-goal loss in the Hurlingham Open final (16-14) and again Sunday with a defeat in Palermo (15-14).
History aside, it wasn’t written in stone that Ellerstina would take the semis. Fouls proved to be a devilment for them throughout the entire game, as they committed at least one foul in every chukker. That resulted in any team’s worst nightmare, and a recurrent one, at that: the sight of Sapo Caset on the penalty line 10 times. No surprise, he converted 8 of those shots, with a ninth tipped in by Fred Mannix, who had an outstanding day.
For Ellerstina, Gonzalito Pieres was effective playing zone back and preventing breakaway runs. Facundo Pieres was a bit more involved, playing a quarterback-type role and initiating the attack. Offensively for Ellerstina, the combo of Polito and Facundo combined for 12 goals (4/4 on penalties and 8/10 shooting). Throw-ins were also a factor for Ellerstina, as they often created good scoring chances and won 13 of 21.
Hilario Ulloa scored playing his stallion, Lavinia Naipe, in the fifth to keep Alegría within two goals of Ellerstina (7-5). The sixth and the seventh chukkers ended in ties (11-11 and 13-13). Ulloa materialized in a flash to make the first of those ties in a head-spinning dash down the field. Then Ellerstina started to sweat it, finding themselves down by one in the seventh. As the clock counted down in the eighth, Ellerstina delivered back-to-back goals, first tying the game at 14 and making it look for all the world like certain overtime.
Sola dove into a mad dash, almost making it to goal. Polito answered with a hero shot on a ridiculously sharp angle, sending Ellerstina to the final for a rematch against La Dolfina.
- Alegría shoots 0/8 in first half but goes 4/4 on penalties
- Ellerstina commits 13 fouls, 10 of which resulted in penalty goals
- Sapo Caset held to zero field goals (got 8 penalty goals)
- Balanced attach from Mannix, Ulloa and Sola (2 field goals apiece)
Photos by Katerina Morgan