Despite a valiant effort in Argentina Universidad Católica could not replicate the performance of Universidad de Chile the previous night and overturn the 2-0 deficit they suffered to Vélez Sásfield in Santiago two weeks previously to progress to the quarter-finals of the Copa Sudamericana.
A positive first half in Buenos Aires saw UC go into the break with a one goal advantage and the promise of more goals. However the second half turned into a struggle as Vélez took over proceedings and duly finished the tie with little more than 15 minutes left on the clock.
It was a tentative opening to the game at the Estadio JoséAmalfitani but for the matter of inches Católica could have taken a lead through Sunday’s hero Milovan Mirosevic. Unlike the first leg UC’s large spells of patient play, Francisco Silva knocked a long ball over the top for the perfectly timed run of Francisco Pizarro who got away from Sársfield’s high line, but his low cross was just out of the reach of the sliding Mirosevic.
Mirosevic went close again after good build-up play involving Silva, Pizarro and Roberto Cereceda –a thorn in Vélez’s side with his extensive probing from left-back – however his near post effort was deflected past the post. The goal UC’s play deserved came not long after.
Cereceda, like he done all night, advanced very high, bouncing a cross to Mirosevic at the edge of the box. Cato’s captain laid the ball to the oncoming Sepúlveda who smashed a low shot into the corner from 24 yards.
Toselli kept the tie in the balance either side of half-time with saves from Héctor Canteros and Iván Bella before Sepúlveda went close from distance again having been found by some excellent forward play from Pizarro.
But a spell of Vélez dominance was the undoing of the Chilean side with less than a quarter of an hour remaining, and UC will be kicking themselves at letting Fernando Ortiz powerfully head home the equaliser unchallenged in the middle of the area. The sucker punch that knocked UC onto the ground. It could have got even worse when Ariel Cabral was played through inside the box only to see his nonchalant chip come back down off the bar.
In the end Cató may regret not making more of their good play in the first half, giving Vélez a fright with their positive play even though they had much to do to recover from the frustrating first leg. Silva pulled the strings from a deep role in midfield with a variety of passing, something which was possibly missing in the first leg. Pizarro played the lone striker role excellently, linking up with midfield, running the channels and being a general nuisance. But Roberto Cereceda was the pick of the bunch, excellent offensively and defensively down the left-wing.
UC will be proud of their efforts and any disappointment among the team will need to be shaken off by Sunday when they travel to Cobresal knowing a win strengthens their position in the Primera Division play-offs.