As the Chilean Clausura draws to a close it seems teams are attempting to make the league as exciting as possible, outdoing what they had done the previous week with goals, red cards, talking points and more goals. And the most exciting of them all was the Superclásico, contested between Chile’s two most illustrious names, Colo Colo and Universidad de Chile, who served up a contest with all the above – including four of the 31 goals scored over the weekend.
And before there is any mention of the other 16 teams it is only right that we jump straight into the Superclásico, which more than lived up to its name, exploding into life with little more than four minutes on the clock . . .
Charles Aránguiz, just inside Colo Colo’s half on the right hand-side, helped a bouncing ball over the top of Los Albos’ defence for Eduardo Vargas to race onto but as he bore down on Castillo in the Colo-Colo goal he was tugged back by Christian Vilches much to the disgust of the home sides players; Castillo receiving a booking for his protests. None of which bothered Aránguiz who stepped up, under a barrage of noise, slotted home and sent the 3,000 away fans into a state of delirium.
Aránguiz’s afternoon would soon turn sour however, not seeing out the first half. The U. de Chile midfielder and Marco Medel tangled in the middle of the pitch just after the half hour as both slid in for a loose ball. Both players were committed to the challenge but as Aránguiz tried to free his leg to get to his feet, Medel reacted as if he had been trampled on and referee Claudio Puga wasted no time in reaching for the red card even though contact seemed minimal.
On the stroke of half-time the match took yet another turn. A storming run down the left from Lucas Wilchez stretched La U further. A quick exchange of passes with Roberto Gutiérrez –who was felled by Osvaldo González – allowed Wilchez the space to go past Rojas and try to cut the ball back into the box, only for the recovering Osvaldo Gonzalez to slide in and block with his hand. Penalty Colo Colo AND red card for Gonzalez, a second yellow for the foul on Gutierrez, which on closer inspection was fully justified.
Esteban Paredes made no mistake from 12 yards before scaling the fencing behind the goal to celebrate with The Chief’s fans, ending a manic and breathless first 45 minutes. La U now faced 45 minutes of holding on for a draw with nine men while Los Albos had to break down a resolute opposition who had forgotten what it feels like to lose.
It was a thankless task for Los Azules as they could only hold on for 15 second half minutes before succumbing to the loss of a goal. The home side worked the ball from right to left, using the width of the pitch to bring Patricio Jerez into play deep in La U’s half. His pin point cross was misjudged by Jhonny Herrera but timed perfectly by Esteban Paredes who ran, unmarked, to head into the unguarded net from six yards out to reach double figures for the Clausura. The majority of the capacity crowd at the Monumental were in ecstasy.
Surely there was no way back for the side that lead the Clausura? But they were given a brief glimmer of hope when that maverick goalkeeper Castillo was given a second yellow for dissent. Bizarrely he had run from his box to say something to the referee – although it looked like he was actually shouting at one of his players – moments after he had awarded a free-kick TO Colo Colo.
If that was bizarre then there is no word to describe what happened in the 101st minute. Yes you read that right 101st! 12 minutes of stoppage time were needed as Colo Colo’s substitute ‘keeper Raul Olivares required extensive treatment to a head wound suffered from an accidental kick to the head by La U substitute Albert Acevedo.
In the 11th of the 12 additional minutes a hopefully ball played into the Colo Colo box was met by Los Albos’ own Osmar Molinas whose header looped over the unfortunate Olivares, dropping into the goal, rescuing an unlikely but astonishingly dramatic point for Universidad de Chile, ending a four game losing streak at the Monumental and prolonging their unbeaten record. As the Colo Colo players, management and fans stood frozen and stunned, La U manager Jorge Sampaoli led the frenzied celebrations of the away side, exulting on the pitch.
Simply put it was a derby that had everything. A derby that will be reminisced for years to come. Even though the game had little impact on the outcome of the Clausura it was quite simply astonishing. Los Azules remain eight points clear of their rivals who need a point from their final three games to be 100% sure of their participation in the Clausura play-offs.Elsewhere in a hectic weekend of football the big winners were Santiago Morning, Universidad Católica and Ñublense who had two reasons to celebrate.
Thanks to a first-half double from Jaime Grondona Ñublense ran out 3-1 winners at home against Palestino to rise to 7th in the Clausura Championship, a point ahead of Unión La Calera in 9th, but more pertinently the three points saw them emerge from the relegation places into 16th in the General table.
The win was all the more important as any other result would have resulted in Ñublense propping up the General table due to Santiago Morning’s 5-0 thumping of Cobresal. There was only a single goal difference at half-time but a Mauricio Gómez’s hat-trick and another from Francisco Arrue completed the second half rout. The win now sees four points separate Morning at the bottom with Unión San Felipe in 12th. It also keeps up Morning’s slim chance of clinching a Clausura play-off place, three points from 8th placed Unión Española. Cobresal are now four games without a win. From sitting in the play-offs they are now on the outside looking in with another eye on those behind them in the General table, SM’s win closing the gap to two points.
Universidad de Concepción were the team to drop into the second automatic relegation position, falling to a 2-1 defeat in Santiago to Católica. César Carignano’s double in the last 20 minutes turned defeat into a win for UC, lifting them into 6th place, three points ahead of those outside the play-off places and moving them closer to confirming their participation in next years Copa Liberatadores. Cato are coming good at the right time after their mid-Clausura slump while Concepción seem to only be heading in the opposite direction.
On Friday night Cobreloa moved into 3rd place with a 1-1 draw at lowly San Felipe. All the action came in a fast-paced first half where both teams scored and had a man sent-off. Come Sunday evening Cobreloa continued in 3rd as Audax Italiano suffered a 2-0 loss at the hands of Santiago Wanderers. Wanderers moved into 11th two points adrift of a play-off place, while at the same time keeping their relegation rivals at arms length.
Like the Wanderers Deportes Iquique scored a vital win in the relegation battle, overcoming O’Higgins with the odd goal in five. O’Higgins twice led either side of half-time but on both occasions they were pegged back by goals from Álvaro Ramos before 35 year-old Mauricio Donoso found the net three minutes from time ending a six game wait for a win.
Deportes La Serena will most likely be apart of the play-offs after a 3-2 win at home to Unión Española who cling to their own play-off place. It was another thrilling game in La Serena as three goals came in the last ten minutes. Diego Scotti has looked to earn Española a draw only for Juan Sotelo to win it in injury time.
Unión La Calera were the team to drop out of the play-offs, going down away to a Huachipato side that retain a slim hope of reaching the play-offs. Jesús Vera grabbed the only goal of the game in the lowest score game of the weekend.
With three rounds of games remaining before the seasons reaches its ‘final stages’ three wins can quite easily propel you into the play-off reckoning, while at the same time three defeats could prove disastrous in terms of relegation.