Estudiantes win Argentina Apertura title

Estudiantes claimed the Argentina Apertura title on Sunday – their fifth league championship – with Rodrigo Lopez of Uruguay scoring two goals in the final 15 minutes to defeat Arsenal 2-0.

Estudiantes went ahead in the 75th on a goal awarded initially to Gaston Fernandez, though a television replay suggested he was not the last to touch it. Lopez was eventually given credit for it.

And in the 87th it was Lopez who ended all doubt, looping in a header from 10 meters (yards) over leaping Arsenal keeper Cristian Campestrini.

"This title is a result of how well we played all season," Lopez said. "I should not get the credit. It goes to my teammates. All this came from sacrifice and the hard work of everyone."

Estudiantes finished with 45 points, two more than Velez in 19 matches. Velez defeated Racing 2-0 on Sunday in a match played at the same time.

With Velez winning, and Estudiantes only managing a draw until late in the game, the championship seemed to be headed to a one-game playoff to decide the title.

Juan Manuel Martinez scored in the 23rd minute for Velez, and Maxi Moralez made it 2-0 early in the second half.

The title means Estudiantes are the dominant team in Argentina in the last few seasons. They won the Apertura title in 2006 and then captured the Copa Libertadores in 2009 – Latin America’s top club competition.

"This is incredible, there are no words to describe it," said Juan Sebastian Veron, the’s club skillful playmaker who labored for a decade in Europe before heading home several years ago. "We worked so hard. There is no doubt we were the best."

The Argentine title has become a carousel. Estudiantes are the eighth different club to win the title in eight seasons. Under the system used in Argentina and most of Latin America, two season titles are awarded each year – the Apertura and Clausura.

That system may end in June with the league likely to move to one 38-match season instead of two 19-match campaigns.

The immediate question is the future of Estudiantes’ coach Alejandro Sabella, who is widely reported the top candidate to take over at high-profile River Plate, which has been without a permanent coach since Angel Cappa resigned last month.

Estudiantes vice president Marcelo Malaespina has said he expects Sabella to complete his contract, which expires in June.

Estudiantes had two very early scoring chances. Fernandez put the ball in the net from close range in the ninth but was ruled offside, and Enzo Perez threatened three minutes later.

But after the early chances, Arsenal had more opportunities on the counterattack.

Estudiantes regrouped early in the second half with Perez just missing wide in the 52nd minute and Veron setting up several chances.

The hosts seemed to be in trouble when Veron went off in the 59th with a lower-leg injury, but that somehow seemed to spark the club from La Plata, located just an hour’s drive from Buenos Aires.

Estudiantes’ Leandro Benitez sent a scorching shot over the crossbar in the 60th, and Fernandez forced Arsenal ‘keeper Campestrini to make a scrambling save four minutes later as Estudiantes pressed for the victory.

The deciding goal came from a corner delivered by Leandro Benitez, with Lopez scrambling it home. That seemed to relax Estudiantes, with Lopez breaking through again to seal it.

In late matches, San Lorenzo defeated Banfield 2-1 and Colon won 1-0 over Newell’s Old Boys.

Walter Erbiti and Juan Carlos Menseguez scored for San Lorenzo with Jonathan Bottinelli getting the lone goal for Banfield.

Lucas Acosta scored for Colon.

The season ends Monday with four more matches.

On Friday, All Boys and Godoy Cruz drew 2-2.