The closing stages of the Primera División are well and truly underway as four teams were eliminated over the weekend, setting up a Clásico Universitario semi-final and potential ‘El Clásico’ final, while Cobreloa – the only non-Santiago team in the last four – will be happy to just be there after an almighty scare at home to Unión La Calera, leaving it late to confirm their place.
Universidad de Chile won. Again. Colo Colo took care of an elementary second-leg and Audax Italiano floundered when it mattered.
Colo Colo 3-1 Deportes La Serena (Agg 9-3)
Los Albos offset the news that talismanic captain Esteban Paredes won’t be signing a new deal by easing into the semi-final stage of the Clausura play-offs.
Leading 6-2 from the first-leg there was no indication that this would be anything other than a comfortable 90 minutes for El Cacique and Roberto Gutiérrez put the home side further ahead on aggregate midway through the first half, finding space in La Serena’s box to finish in the far corner.
La Serena hit back ten minutes later with what can barely be described as a consolation. The fabulously named Dwight Pezzarossi – he is Guatemalan – meeting Mauricio Salazar’s teasing cross with a towering back post header.
Los Albos rubbed salt in La Serena wounds in the final 15 minutes with a further two goals taking the aggregate difference to six; Gutiérrez scoring his 2nd of the goal, pouncing on a weak punch from the ‘Granates’ goalkeeper, and namesake Marcos Gutiérrez before substitute Carlos Muñoz netted into an empty net after another poor punch from Gutiérrez.
Audax Italiano 0-1 Universidad Católica (Agg 1-4)
Universidad Católica continued their fine run of form, making it six wins in eight with an impressive away win in La Florida, home of Los Tanos. As you may have read on here Mario Lepe, Católica coach, has come in for some criticism from fans of late but performances like the one that confirmed their place in the semi-finals and a meeting with rivals Universidad de Chile suggest that UC are the team most likely to threaten La U’s dominance.
One asset that Uni. de Chile possesses is their squad depth but Cató are not far behind and in Kevin Harbottle they have a talented young Chilean who is of the quality of those in the illuminating Universidad de Chile squad.
Audax Italiano simply had no answer to Harbottle’s pace, unpredictability and inventiveness; the moment of the match being when he looked crowded out by two Audax players on the touchline only for him to nutmeg one and speed past the other in a flash. It was also he that laid on the only goal of the game in the first ten minutes, Francisco Pizarro finishing cutely at the front post.
It was a disappointing performance for Los Tanos who, after a fine season with plenty of attacking fluidity and the goals of Facundo Pereyra appeared to run out of steam when it mattered most. They rarely troubled in the first half. Those expecting a fast start from the home side only witnessed a flat opening. They improved slightly in the second half but never looked like overcoming a Católica side who had chances to extend their lead.
Cobreloa 4-3 Unión La Calera (Agg 5-3)
The type of game you want to see happen over two-legs. Cobreloa win the first-leg at La Calera 1-0 in a tight affair. But the second-leg is the complete opposite with one team chasing a lead. They get in the lead then the other team is chasing the lead. They get back in the lead forcing the team behind to chase again resulting in mass gaps at the back and the conceding of further goals.
Bryan Cortés’ wonder-strike separated the two teams the previous weekend and Pedro Vera looked keen to out-do his team mate when he let fly from 25+ yards, his effort arrowing into the far top corner. It certainly rivalled Cortés’ strike but out-do it, it did not. La Calera now needed three goals to win through; if the tie is level after two-legs the team that finished higher in the Clausura table progresses.
They did not waste any time clawing the deficit back. Instantly, Brian Rodríguez had levelled for La Calera on the day, heading home from a corner. And they went ahead before the clock had reached 30 minutes. A long ball was defended poorly by Cobreloa allowing Lucas Simon to run free at goal and finish emphatically. Game on!
Only that La Calera went down to ten men with the sending of Claudio Muñoz seven minutes after half-time. Only that it didn’t matter as Cobreloa’s Cristian Suarez was in early festive spirit comically finishing Simon’s cross. La Calera were heading through . . . if they could hold on for half an hour. They managed 20 minutes. Cobreloa’s continued pressure with an extra man told. Javier Elizondo swept in a cross from 12 yards before Diego Barrios blasted in to make it 3-3 in injury time and Diego Barrios exploited the gaps in La Calera’s backline, volleying in a Sebastián Zúñiga cross with the last kick off the game.
Universidad de Chile 3-0 Union Espanola (Agg 4-0)
La U concluded one of the finest weeks in the club’s history by booking their place in the semi-final of the Clausura play-offs, with what ended up a comfortable victory over Unión Española.
Coming off the 1-0 first-leg Copa Sudamericana final win away to LDU Quito Jorge Sampaoli made nine changes to the side, giving squad players and youngsters further minutes as he continues to expertly rotate his squad to cope with two games a week. Felipe Gallegos and Gustavo Vargas took advantage of their chance; the latter converting two of the former’s three assists.
Yet in front of a noisy but sparsely populated crowd – it will be much changed when they welcome LDU on Wednesday – it was not all plain sailing for the home side. Jean Paul Pineda, Leandro Monje and Sebastián Jaime were lively for Española finding space in front and down the sides of Los Azules three-man backline. However it was Albert Acevedo who almost opened the scoring for the away side. Jhonny Herrera having to acrobatically claw away the defenders slice from Jaime’s cross.
It became mission improbable for La Furia Roja just before the half hour mark, Esteban González seeing a straight red for a high challenge on Francisco Castro. Moments later La U went ahead. Gallegos controlling a long ball into the path of Gustavo Vargas to fire home from 12 yards.
Herrera still had to be alert in goal saving well from Pineda amongst others but Española’s profligacy in front of goal will come back to hurt them before half-time, Vargas grabbing his second of the game and third in two games. A fantastic run across his marker gave him ample space to meet Gallegos’ cross with a flying diving header which flew into the net.
The second half was a reserved occasion with both teams knowing the game was up. It did however allow 35-year-old Universidad de Chile hero Diego Rivarola to not only lead the line but put the cherry on the icing on top of the cake with a third late one. The hitman, who is in his third spell with the club, raced on to Gallegos’ through ball and slip it past the advancing Federico Elduayen.
Saturday 17/12/11 – Colo Colo v Cobreloa
Sunday 18/12/11 – Universidad Católica v Universidad de Chile
Tuesday 20/12/11 – Cobreloa v Colo
Thursday 22/12/11 – Universidad de Chile v Universidad Católica
In other news Unión San Felipe remain in the Primera after turning around a 1-0 loss in the first-leg of their relegation play-off with Everton, winning the second-leg at home 2-0.
Santiago Wanderers place also remains, defeating Naval 3-2 on aggregate. A 1-0 away win was followed by a 2-2 draw at home.