Week 15 Round-up – Among the goals the league becomes clearer . . . and less clear.

Fernando Solis (left) in the thick of the action for Santiago Morning (IMG - ANFP)

The English Premier League has been in the news of late for the frequency in which goals have been scored; defences conspicuous by their absence as Robin Van Persie, David Silva, Edin Dzeko et al take advantage. Similarly, in Chile goals are flowing on a regular occurrence; forwards coming out on top as teams see attack as the best strategy to propel them into the play-offs or escape the dreaded relegation zone and play-offs. And week 15 was no different.

The only constant factor in both the Clausura and General tables is table topping Universidad de Chile, winners once again, as the rest continue to trade places, making it muy difícil (very difficult) for anyone to predict the final league placings. Analysing week 15 we can establish that Universidad Católica will join rivals Universidad de Chile in next years Copa Liberatadores while Cobreloa, Audax Italiano and Colo-Colo – despite defeat – will take part in the end of season play-offs. They are likely to be joined by Deportes La Serena and Católica – should be confirmed after the next round of matches – but six points separates Santiago Morning, who currently occupy the final play-off spot, and Palestino in 17th. Santiago Moring are still in relegation trouble also; the race to avoid the drop or the relegation play-offs equally tight, six points between the bottom eight in the General table.

And it is with Santiago Morning and Palestino where we kick off the review:

A startling late season burst – four wins in their last seven games – has moved Santiago Morning off the bottom of the general table, and into the Clausura play-offs; the latest victory a 4-2 win away to Palestino. Despite Nicolás Canales wonderfully executed overhead kick Palestino could not handle the away side’s goal threat; two neat finishes from Felipe Flores spurring Morning to victory in the Chilean heat. Yet they are still in relegation zone and need to make sure they escape both the drop zone and relegation play-offs to take part in Clausura play-offs.

For the second week running Universidad Católica recovered from a goal down late in the second half to secure all three points. Although this time it was as late as they possibly could have left it two grab all three points from a distraught Unión Española. Two goals scored from corners in the last two minutes; Hans Martinez the hero, netting a rebound to send the big away support barmy. The persistent quality they possess demonstrates that their slump is well and truly behind them and it was only that, a slump. On this form – seven unbeaten – UC could be Universidad de Chile’s biggest challengers in the play-offs. The game was a ‘six pointer’ in terms of the race for a Copa Liberatadores spot now secured by Cató. And a double blow for La Furia Roja is that they drop out of the play-offs with the result..

On Friday night Ñublense’s play-off hopes were dashed, but more pertinently they fell to the bottom of the general table, suffering a 2-0 away defeat to Audax Italiano who remain 3rd in the league. Both lined up in a 3-4-1-2 formation and there was little between the teams, despite the difference in league positions. Ñublense were dangerous in attack but lacked the killer instinct, highlighted by a horrible miss from Jaime Grondona. He wriggled free from Los Tanos goalkeeper Alejandro Sánchez and with a wide open goal at his mercy he ballooned the ball over the bar. He, like everyone watching, was in a state of shock. Facundo Pereyra who scored a belter of a second goal tried to match Grondona in the ‘sitter’ department scooping the ball over from inside the six yard box, with the goalkeeper glued to his line. A goal which would have took him into double figures in the Clausura and joint-top of the scoring charts with Colo-Colo’s Esteban Paredes.

O’Higgins piled more misery on Colo-Colo, following Los Albos’ surrendering of an 101st equaliser to arch-rivals Universidad de Chile, with a 2-0 win on Sunday. A quick-fire first half double from Sebastián Pinto won the game for the Rancagua side. The first a headed goal after neat, patient build-up play. The second a tap-in to finish of a sweeping counter-attack. Colo-Colo’s day was compounded by Roberto Gutiérrez’s (who has been called up the Chile national team) sending-off. O’Higgins are safe in the general table but need a miracle to reach the end of season play-offs. Defeat was more important for Colo-Colo, falling to 4th in Clausura and failing to capitalise on Unión Española’s defeat to move to 3rd in the General table. Third in the General table could be important for qualification to the Copa Liberatadores if Universidad de Chile win the Clausura play-offs.

Universidad de Chile followed up their first-leg success in the Copa Sudamericana in Argentina with a goal-laden win over Huachipato. Eduardo Vargas and Francisco Castro had La U two up in the first 12 minutes before the teams went on to share a further six goals, Gustavo Canales securing a 5-3 victory late on, having already scored a penalty like he had done against Argentines Arsenal. However the goal of the game came from the wonderful left foot of Huachipato’s César Cortés, curling an effort past Jhonny Herrera into the top corner from the right-hand edge of the box. Defeat leaves Cortés and Huachipato only three points off the relegation zone, while Los Azules just keep on going; 11 wins and four draws in the Clausura.

Unión La Calera v Deportes Iquique was barely ten minutes old when it was affected by blackout. Play soon restarted and La Calera were clearly not affected as Roberto Ordenes thumped a shot into Rodrigo Naranjo’s top corner moments later. But that was as good as it got for the home side as their defence appeared to be playing as if the lights were still off and they could not see the ball, Iquique equalising mid-way through the second half before snatching all three points in stoppage time, Jonathan Rebolledo heading home before being sent-off for celebrating with the small band of away fans. That late goal could be crucial, lifting Iquique four points above the relegation zone in the General Table and level on points with La Calera, and one point behind Santiago Morning in the Clausura.

Elsewhere a win for Universidad de Concepción at home to Unión San Felipe made sure they were not propping up the General Table. Two second half goals from substitute Renato Ramos cancelled out Matias Urbano’s early opener. The win fro Concepción was there first in nine league games but the still remain in relegation trouble along with San Felipe.

Cobresal recorded a vital win over Deportes La Serena, affecting their position in both tables. A double from Miguel Ángel Cuéllar, taking him to eight goals in the Clausura, sandwiched a Juan Sotelo reply, giving Cobresal a two point buffer in the play-offs and over the relegation zone. La Serena require a point from their last two matches ton confirm their play-off spot.

Finally Cobreloa moved to second in the Clausura, confirming their play-off spot with a 1-0 home win over Santiago Wanderers. An early Nétor Trecco strike the difference between the two sides. The Wanderers, currently in the last relegation play-off place know two wins from their remaining two games will secure their safety and could, if results go their way, launch them into the last play-off spot.

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