Audax Italiano 1-1 Huachipato

Huachipato came away from the Municipal de La Florida with an unexpected and deserved point as Audax Italiano failed to fully take advantage of second place Colo Colo’s slip-up away to La Serena.

Similar to the game between Unión Española and O’Higgins the previous evening the game was played at a frantic pace, helped by the artificial surface at La Florida as the ball zipped about. With both teams set up in a 3-4-1-2/3-4-3 formation and content at playing on the counter-attack with plenty of quick, sharp, vertical passes the game was primed for end to end action and it’s exactly how the first goal of the game came about.

Each side laid their intentions from the start; attack at pace. Three minutes gone and Huachipato led 1-0, the goal coming from an Audax Italiano attack. A devastating counter-attack from one end to the other in half a dozen passes saw César Cortés find room in the final third to run with the ball, but instead opted to shoot from nearly 30 yards; the ball viciously deflecting of Christian Jelves and looping over the despairing dive of Alejandro Sanchez. It was the 7th game out of nine in week 11 that had a goal within the first 20 minutes.

Audax Italiano came roaring back, the free-running and energetic Matías Campos Toro coming inside off his left wing slot and intelligently evading the senses of Huachipato’s defence to receive Fabián Benitez’s chipped pass. However Toro misjudged the bounce of the surface and was left stretching to poke his effort at goal, Cristian Muñoz tipping the ball into the side netting. The resulting header from Benitez was also saved well.

It became the case that captain Toro and Benitez were controlling the game. Benitez this time on the end of a Toro pass to try his hand from distance, but again Muñoz was equal to the shot.

It was no surprise then that Benitez was heavily involved in the equaliser on 34 minutes. The midfielder won through a challenge to deliver a precise assist to Facundo Pereyra who had pulled away from José Luis Zelaye, leaving the defender in no man’s land as tried to intercept. Pereyra emphatically finished for his 7th of the Clausura.

From reading up to here it would seem it was Audax Italiano but that was far from the case. Huachipato arguably played the better football. And in Cortés they have a slippery attacker full of zest and perfect for their fluid front three; confident taking possession under pressure and not shy at taking players on. Some of the away side’s quick interchanges and link-ups were a joy to watch but too often they happened too far from the Italiano penalty to cause too much trouble.

The promise and pace of the first half gave way to a more conservative second period, especially as the half developed; Huachipato away to sit deep, trusting their front players to provide attacking thrust.

With 25 minutes left Zelaye’s poor positioning and eagerness to attack the ball almost resulted in an Italiano winner. Substitute Francisco Gaete pulled to the backpost, and as Zelaye got caught under Toro’s cross, controlled with his chest but a weak effort was comfortably saved by Muñoz. A great chance fluffed.

Having wasted presentable opportunities earlier in the half Huachipato had the best chance of the second half a minute after Gaete’s miss. Another poor cross from the right was surprisingly not dealt with by Sánchez, and with the goalkeeper stranded Paolo Frangipane slid onto the loose ball at the edge of the box, but with Sánchez out of his goal he put the ball the wrong side of the post.

The game had the potential for more goals, taking into consideration some generous defending and inventive attacking play but the second half petered out as Audax Italiano struggled to find the necessary creativity to break down a Huachipato side that got players behind the ball in the second half and shut of space for Italiano to exploit.

The point means the home side remain in 3rd place while Huachipato are now 8 games without a win but add to their points total as they continue to look over their shoulder at Santiago Morning and Ñublense in the overall relegation places.

Man of the Match: Fabián Benitez/ César Cortés

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