Two Championship play-off places, two relegation play-off places and one automatic relegation place were ‘up for grabs’ at the weekend. Nine teams were involved meaning six games kicked off simultaneously. The permutations seemed endless. The hope, the fear, the excitement and the despair.
The 90 minutes of football had it all as 23 goals were exchanged in the six games.
Could Santiago Morning stave off relegation and do the unthinkable and reach the Clausura play-offs? Could Unión Española blow their place in the Clausura play-offs? Could Unión San Felipe win for the frost time in eight matches to rise out of danger?
All will be answered . . . (and there’ll even be mention of Universidad de Chile reaching a remarkable landmark without any of their heavy –hitters)
No Santiago Morning couldn’t do the unthinkable. They done the expected and dropped to the Primera B. Not without a fight however. They took the lead at Cobreloa – who had already sealed their place in the Clausura play-offs – in the second minute through Felipe Flores. But they conceded on the stroke of half-time and could not find a crucial second with substitute Sergio Zúñiga confirming their relegation three minutes from the end.
Unión San Felipe were saved from relegation as they fell 1-0 away to Palestino. Anyone who had the mis-pleasure of viewing the match will have thought San Felipe had nothing to play for with their anaemic performance. Three points would have lifted them out of the relegation play-offs but Junior Fernandez’s expertly placed header prolongs their season further; they will face Everton to retain their Primera place.
On the point of Junior Fernandez. It will be very surprising if one of Chile’s bigger clubs do not make an attempt to prise him away from Palestino.
San Felipe are joined in the relegation play-offs by Santiago Wanderers who could not find the point required to keep them safe for another year. Their victors on Sunday, Unión La Calera, secured the three points which lifts them all the way to seventh and a place in the play-offs where they’ll meet Cobreloa who finished second. Two weeks previous it looked as if three defeats in four had all but finished La Calera’s season. But Ramón Fernández winner may well be his most important goal in a Rojos jersey.
Draws for Cobresal (3-3 versus Deportes Iquique), Huachipato (4-4 versus O’Higgins) and Universidad de Concepción (2-2 versus Unión Española) mean they will have at least another season’s participation in the Primera. In the case of Huachipato and Universidad de Concepción they finished above Wanderers on goal difference – by three and eight goals respectively. While Cobresal also finished on the same points but finish above all three because they recorded more wins.
Universidad de Concepción’s draw with Unión Española also saw La Furia Roja scrape into the play-offs due to a superior goal difference in the Clausura over Cobresal. Española came from two goals down to save a draw and set up an exciting play-off quarter-final with Universidad de Chile.
While Española recovered a two goal deficit Cobresal threw away a two goal deficit costing them a stab at the Clausura championship. Three first half goals had were the response to an early Iquique opener. But the away side came back strongly in the second half, scoring after the restart then with 15 minutes left.
Although it was Huachipato who secured their Primera place with a draw thanks to a double each from impressive performers César Cortés and Manuel Villalobos, O’Higgins striker Sebastián Pinto stole the show with a marvellous four-goal haul. The goals took the 25-year-old above Colo Colo’s Esteban Paredes to the top of goal scoring charts with 13 and increases his reputation as bigger clubs look to shape their side for next season with the aim to close the gap to Universidad de Chile.
Universidad Católica finished a tough week by beating Deportes La Serena 4-1, leapfrogging their opponents in the mean time to finish 5th in the Clausura. After the insipid goalless draw with rivals Universidad de Chile’s ‘second side’ fans were calling for manager Mario Lepe’s sacking, deeming the side too negative and boring.
However UC responded with a positive performance Fernando Meneses opening the scoring in the 11th minute. But it looked like the teams would go in level at half-time as the unmarked Dwight Pezzarossi guided in Gamadiel García’s free-kick, only for Francisco Pizarro finish off a fantastic run and assist by Meneses. Further second half goals from Kevin Harbottle – another assist by Meneses – and Felipe Gutiérrez rounded of a comprehensive victory.
Colo Colo joined their Santiago rivals in leapfrogging La Serena to finish 3rd and set up a meeting with La Serena in the play-offs after beating already relegated Ñublense 2-1 in a week which say the club linked with numerous players as they look towards the new year.
Played in front of an empty Monumental stadium after Colo Colo were punished for incidents which happened after the derby with Universidad de Chile, Los Albos went ahead through Lucas Wilchez only for Sebastián Montesinos to draw the visitor’s level with a free header. Jose Fuenzalida won it late on for the capital city giants slamming home a volley from the right-hand side of the box.
In the last game of the weekend Universidad de Chile achieved the feat of 30 games unbeaten as their ‘second side’ recorded an impressive 1-1 draw in La Florida against Audax Italiano. With an average age of just under 24 La U went ahead when Paulo Magalhaes’ deflected effort deceived Alejandro Sánchez in the Audax goal. But Los Tanos earned a point when who else but Facundo Pereyra emphatically finished with his left foot as he raced onto the ball in the box.
Audax now play Universidad Católica in arguably the game of the round in the Clausura play-off quarter-finals while La U will go up against Unión Española in an another exciting match-up. With eyes on reaching the Copa Sudamericana final Jorge Sampaoli has taken the chance to blood a number of young players and there is some very talented footballers coming out of Universidad de Chile. 18-year-olds Christian Bravo and Sebastián Martínez acquitted themselves well as did 17-year-old defender Igor Lichnovsky and the electrifying 19-year-old Felipe Gallegos.
Clausura Championship Play-offs (two-legged:
Deportes La Serena v Colo Colo
Universidad Catolica v Audax Italiano
Union La Calera v Cobreloa
Union Espanola v Universidad de Chile
Everton v Union San Felipe
Naval v Santiago Wanderers