Clausura Play-Off’s Kick-Off – Advantage Favourites

Paredes equalises (IMG: ANFP)

In an explosive opening to the Clausura play-offs three of the four games went the way of the positional seeding with three away wins. The only home win coming from Universidad Católica who, despite finishing below Audax Italiano, were arguably favourites to win through to the semi-finals. It is looking likely that three of the four semi-final places will be taken by the three Santiago Giants.

Saturday saw a glut of goals as 12 were scored in the two games while on Sunday the two encounters were tight and tentative, both away teams winning a goal to nil.

Deportes La Serena 2-6 Colo Colo

It’s not hard to realise what the game of the week was as the Clausura play-offs kicked off. With 27 minutes on the clock the score read 2-3 (in favour of Colo Colo). By full-time Los Albos had added three more to make the second-leg futile and avenge the 4-0 defeat they suffered to the same opponents earlier in the Clausura.

Gamadiel Garcia got the scoring started with barely two minutes on the clock knocking in the rebound from his his first effort but it would be the only time La Serena took the lead in the match as Esteban Paredes pulled Colo Colo level ten minutes later, Lucas Wilchez turning the game 180 degrees in the 18th minute latching onto a Rodrigo Millar flicked pass and placing into the far corner. In a breathless opening half hour Dwight Pezzarossi equalised only for Los Albos to go straight back up the pitch and back in the lead through Wilchez’s identikit goal to his first only this time receiving a pass from Paredes.

It would be half an hour before another goal was scored, Esteban Paredes netting his second of the game and 12th of the Clausura. Roberto Gutiérrez and substitute Carlos Muñoz would add further misery to La Serena’s afternoon with goals in the last 20 minutes as the home side were spread thin at the back.

Universidad Católica 3-1 Audax Italiano

Under-fire boss Mario Lepe saw his side record an impressive win against a sound Audax Italiano taking his side a step closer to a Clausura semi-final place; Pablo Calandria scoring a header in injury time in what could prove a crucial goal in the tie.

Hans Martínez opened the scoring just before the 30 minute mark before talisman Milovan Mirosevic doubled the lead with the game approaching half-time, heading home a Fernando Meneses cross. Meneses is shaping up to be UC’s key player in the seasons climax. Sebastián Silva halved the deficit midway through the second half, rising unmarked in the Cató box. That looked to set up a potential classic at La Florida, only for the game to crumble in UC’s favour. Los Tanos substitute Francisco Sanchez picking up two bookings in eight minutes and then Calandria popped up to give UC a two goal cushion going into this weekends re-match.

Unión La Calera 0-1 Cobreloa

Cobreloa boss Nelson Acosta paid tribute to his defence as his team came away from La Calera with a solid one-goal victory in a tight game between two evenly matched teams. La Calera looked to capitalise on their home advantage but toiled to breakdown a resolute Cobreloa back four and at least test Nicolás Peric. While at the other end Nicolás Trecco remained a danger, causing La Calera moments of distress. However the only goal of the game came out of nothing. But it was certainly something, Bryan Cortés picking the ball up and unleashing a shot that can only be described as ‘unstoppable’; a 25+ yard thunderbolt into the far top corner leaving La Calera’s Lucas Giovini with no chance.

Unión Española 0-1 Universidad de Chile

In the final play-off game of the weekend Universidad de Chile warmed up for their first ever continental final by leaving it very late to snatch victory at the Estadio Santa Laura; the scene of one of the greatest moments in La U history only four days previously.

There were places in the team for squad players with Jorge Sampaoli having one eye on the first-leg of the Copa Sudamericana final in Ecuador where they face LDU Quito on Thursday. One of which was 17-year-old defender Igor Lichnovsky who performed admirably against a quick and fluid forward line. Despite the presence of Eduardo Vargas, Charles Aránguiz and Gustavo Lorenzetti it was Española who were the more dangerous throughout. Danger-man Leandro Monje could have helped himself to a hat-trick on another day but he could not locate his shooting boots. In the first half he managed to wriggle free inside the penalty box but from a promising position he dragged his shot wide and in the second half he could only blaze a cross over from ten yards out with the goal at his mercy. Los Hispanos’ Fernando Cordero was also unfortunate seeing a shot coming back of the post as was Sebastián Jaime who saw a goal ruled out, wrongly, for offside.

Just when it appeared that the draw would set up a fascinating second-leg clash the following Sunday, like all top teams do, La U conjured a winner deep into injury time through Vargas. But this time it was Eduardo’s namesake Gabriel who had come on at half-time. Great play from Eugenio Mena down the left brought him just enough space to stand up a cross to the back post where Gabriel Vargas was waiting to nod home a winner sparking wild scenes amongst La U players and fury amongst their Española counter-parts, still aggrieved about the incorrect offside ten minutes earlier. Raúl Estévez was given a second yellow card for airing his frustrations too aggressively.

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