It was another goal-fuelled weekend in the Chilean Primera División as the league takes a resemblance of shape, entering the home straight before the end of season play-offs. With Universidad de Chile all but secured of first position it was the three teams directly below them, Colo Colo, Audax Italiano and Cobreloa, who had a fine weekend, all but sealing their spots in the Clausura play-offs – mathematics dictate that either of the teams could fall out of the places with a disastrous finish.
In the lower echelons of the play-offs Unión La Calera and Unión Española traded positions with Cobresal and Ñublense while Universidad Católica hung on to their place with a spirited and unexpected comeback against Cobresal.
There was little change at the bottom of the general table which decides relegation, the bottom six all failing to win.
We start the round-up with the game of the weekend in Calama where Universidad Católica travelled to face Cobresal in an important encounter between two teams with play-off ambitions; the home side also having half an eye on the relegation proceedings.
The match was still in its infancy when Católica were reduced to ten men. Francisco Silva – after an impressive performance midweek away to Vélez Sársfield – shown a straight red card for what appeared a strong bodycheck on José Luis Cabión; the referee believing Silva led with the elbow.
Cobresal were happy to play a patient game, waiting and probing for gaps to open in the away defence, moving the ball from side to side. Both teams had chances to take the lead before the deadlock was broken on 19 minutes, Miguel Ángel Cuéllar latching onto a long ball that dropped perfectly for him to round Christopher Toselli in the Cató goal and finish. Just after the half hour mark Cuéllar doubled his tally and the home sides lead. Another clipped ball over the top was met by the Mineros striker, this time lifting the ball over Toselli and rolling the ball into the empty net.
That looked like being that. UC were drained with confidence and struggled in the heat for most of the match, until the introduction of Milovan Mirosevic and the squat Kevin Harbottle. It was the former that was involved in the first goal, freeing Stefano Magnasco down the right to centre for Francisco Pizarro to score. And with nine minutes remaining UC had done the unimaginable only ten minutes earlier and recovered the two goal deficit. A quick free kick from Mirosevic gave Pizarro space and time to pick out the run of Juan Pablo Gómez and the substitute lifted the ball delicately over the Cobresla goalkeeper Luis Rogel.
That was not the end of the action. Instead of further goal mouth action both teams had a man sent-off. Rogel was given two bookings within ten seconds for protesting with the referee for what looked something unimportant before Magnasco was shown a straight red card for a clumsy rather than malicious challenge, going through the back of Cabión.
In the last game of the weekend Colo-Colo regained second spot from Audax Italiano, who had defeated Deportes Iquique 3-0 on Friday night (early hours of Saturday GMT), with a 3-1 victory over Santiago Morning. It seems if two teams are level on the same number of points it is head-to-head rather than goal difference that decides positioning; Colo-Colo having defeated Los Tanos 3-0 earlier in the Clausura.
With half-time approaching it looked like there may be a shock on the card when Los Behemios took the lead through a powerful a Diego Silva header. Morning had contained Los Albos superbly and looked dangerous in transition from defence to attack but they could not hold out until half-time. José Pedro Fuenzalida equalised with a splendid swivel and volley finish in the one movement, roving left-back Boris Reiloff with the assist.
Two second half goals within six minutes of each other; Christian Vilches with a flying header, akin to one Superman would score, and Mauro Olivi adding the third from the penalty spot.
The result is a double blow for Santiago Morning, who find themselves five points outside the play-offs and still rooted to the bottom of the general table as games run out for them to claw their way out.
A 12 minute blitz at the start of the match was all Audax Italiano needed to see of Iquique who have now gone seven games without a win. The away sides defence was amateurish and Los Itálicos potent frontline took full advantage, with a little help from Iquique defender Luis Fuentes; putting through his own goal 18 seconds in. Felipe Mora and Facundo Pereyra – joining Estbean Paredes at the top of the goalscorer charts with 8 – both netted rebounds to conclude a rout which could have been more emphatic.
Unión Española leapfrogged visitors Ñublense with a competent 3-1 win. Leandro Monje opened the scoring with a fine individual goal before Jaime Grondona levelled after timing his run to meet Jonathan Cisternas’s reversed through ball. La Furia Roja hit back before half-time this time Monje set-up Raúl Estévez to blast home after another mazy run. The game was finished with 17 minutes remaining, Jean Pineda rounding off an incisive passing move. Despite being on fringes of the play-offs Ñublense are now two points adrift of third bottom Universidad de Concepción in the general table.
Concepción drew 2-2 with fellow strugglers Santiago Wanderers, who are a further point ahead. The university team went ahead twice but on both occasions pulled back by away side Wanderers. Pedro Muñoz opened the scoring a quarter of an hour in as they led at half-time. Eric Godoy made it 1-1 before a two minute exchange of goals late on ended the scoring. Concepción could not take advantage of the extra man in the last five minutes when Christian Sepúlveda was given his marching orders and have now gone nine games in league and cup without tasting success.
The current form team, no not Universidad de Chile, but Cobreloa made it four wins from four with a close fought 1-0 win at home to middle of the road – in both leagues – Huachipato. Patricio Schwob winning the game 15 minutes from time after coming on as a substitute.
Talking of La U, they extended their unbeaten Clausura from to 13 with a 1-1 draw away to Palestino. After the midweek trouncing of Flamengo in the Copa Sudamericana coach Jorge Sampaoli made eight changes and it looked like it was going to work. Lusi Gallegos giving Los Azules a half-time lead running free of the defence and rounding the home sides goalkeeper, Felipe Núñez, after sublime slipped past from Guillermo Marino. But they could not hold on and Junior Fernandez thundered in a volleyed equaliser – the goal of the week – with half an hour remaining for a Palestino side who have little left to play for except pride.
La U now going into a massive week with the return fixture against Flamengo on Thursday (00.50 GMT) before the Superclásico against eternal rivals Colo-Colo.
The remaining two games saw wins for Unión La Calera and Deportes La Serena over O’Higgins and respectively.
Uruguayan Braian Rodriguez was the match-winner for La Calera scoring the only goal of the game in the first half. La Calera sneak into the last play-off spot with an away game at Huachipato next on the list. O’Higgins’ third defeat on the spin looks like giving the team too much to do to make the Clausura play-offs.
La Serena holds a four point cushion in the play-offs thanks to a late Juan Sánchez Sotelo winner at home to Unión San Felipe. Sergio Nuñez’s penalty looked like securing San Felipe a crucial point after Eduardo Rubio’s early opener, as they looked to pull away from the relegation play-offs. But the late goal means they are only two points from 15th and the dreaded play-off.
|8.||U. La Calera||18||13||5||3||5||15||14||1|
|18.||U. San Felipe||11||13||2||5||6||13||24||-11|
|6.||U. La Calera||43||30||12||7||11||33||32||1|
|12.||U. San Felipe||35||30||9||8||13||37||45||-8|