Universidad de Chile joined rivals Universidad Catolica in the final stages of the Copa Sudamericana where they will meet Braizlian giants Flamengo after the second round tie with Uruguayan side Nacional was suspended only a minute into the second half.
Leading 1-0 from the home tie, La U went 3-0 on aggregate with two goals in as many minutes early in the first half. But moments into the second half the near-side linesman was hit on the head by a streamer thrown from the Nacional crowd, resulting in the official being carried away on a stretcher.
CONEMBOL, the South American football association, needed little time at all to award Universidad de Chile the tie setting up the tie with Ronaldinho’s Flamengo.
In front of the partisan Montevideo crowd, Nacional needed at least a goal to take it to extra-time and started the match in positive fashion as expected, forcing La U back straight from the kick-off.
Despite their pressure they did not threaten; Universidad it was who were the first to create a chance on the break with ten minutes elapsed. Great hold-up play by Eduardo Vargas brought Charles Aranguiz into play on the half-way line. The number 20 burst forward, playing a weighted through ball to meet Francisco Castro’s run from left but Nacional goalkeeper Rodrigo Munoz came out and blocked well with his feet.
Nacional did not heed the warning. A poor clearance on the right saw Gustavo Lorenzetti release Castro down the left with a first time lofted pass. Castro laid the ball into the path of the on-rushing Vargas who coolly collected and finished across Munoz into the far corner.
One minute later and La U had all but secured their place in the last 16 of the Copa Sudamericana extending their aggregate lead to 3-0. A lightning break from the half-way line by Matias Rodriguez out Nacional on the back foot and before they could settle right-back Rodriguez had exchanged passes with Vargas giving him a simple finish from seven yards even with the presence of two defenders on the line, Munoz in the Nacional goal having been taken out of play by Vargas’ return.
The home side’s first real chance fell to Mathias Abrero. A cross from the left was cleared only as far as Abrero waiting unmarked inside the Chilean side’s box. He connected well with a volley but it was straight at Jhonny Herrera in La U goal.
La U were happy to exploit the space afforded to them on the counter-attack and another well worked move ended with the ball in the Nacional goal only for the linesman to rightly flag Castro offside.
Nacional needed to score before half-time, requiring four goals to advance to the last 16 and they created inviting chances. The first for Richard Porta was the best they would create all night. A ball in to the right-hand side of the box forced Herrera to advance and close the angle. The deflected cut back fell to Porta, stationed six yards out with the goal gaping and one defender to beat he stabbed the chance wide.
Universidad had looked vulnerable to crosses most of the first half and it was another that was defended poorly, Eugenio Menia getting caught under the flight of the ball leaving Tabare Viudez all alone at the back post but the forward could only slice his effort wide of the far post.
Vargas could have sealed the tie with a cherry on top with a superbly worked team goal. A quick passing move involving Menia, Castro, Aranguiz and Lorentzetti released Vargas on the edge of the box. Attempting to outmanoeuvre Munoz by fooling him with a drop of the shoulder, Vargas lost his footing and was made to look foolish as the ball rolled into the goalkeepers arms..
At the start of the second half La U piecked up where they left off at the end of the first half, winning a corner almost straight from kick-off. Aranguiz was freed down the right hand-side but despite the space given to him he could only fire straight at Munoz who tipped over.
And it was here where the match ended as a white streamer was thrown from the stands, hitting the Paraguayan official flush on the head.
Next up for La U is a home encounter with O’Higgins in the league where they will look to extend their winning run in the Clausura to nine games.