Clausura Semi-final Play-off first-leg: Away sides in control

Trecco lets fly (IMG: ANFP)

Two tight semi-final affairs, with goals aplenty, see the two sides who finished first and second in the Clausura table take one goal leads (effectively two due to Clausura positioning) into the second-legs to be played midweek.

Colo Colo 2 v 3 Cobreloa

In the first of the semi-finals Colo Colo entertained Cobreloa in what was a topsy turvy encounter full of incident as Ivo Basay’s Los Albos struggle to achieve the consistency required to challenge rivals Universidad de Chile and make a case for winning the Clausura and a place in next years Copa Liberatadores. Cobreloa on the other hand showed, with players of the quality of Nicolás Trecco in tow, why they finished second, behind La U in the Clausura table.

Clausura defender Sebastián Rocco had a goal rightly chalked off before Colo Colo took the lead just shy of the 20th minute mark. Quick thinking from Jose Pedro Fuenzalida from a corner saw the midfielder exchange passes on the edge of the box before curling the return beautifully into the far top corner.

They could only hold on for five minutes however when Los Mineros cut through the home sides wide open three-man back-line; Javier Elizondo finishing off the move, cutely chipping over former Cobreloa goalkeeper Francisco Prieto.

Cobreloa looked the more solid unit out of possession, their back four protected by three energetic midfielders who in turn allow Hugo Lusardi and the gifted Trecco to torment opposition defences. And the two combined to create a chance for the former who saw his angled shot ricochet off the foot of the post and into the grateful Prieto’s hands.

But in Esteban Paredes, Rodrigo Millar et al one thing Colo Colo does not lack is attacking fluidity and movement. El Cacique should have had a penalty before Paredes failed to make the most of a presentable chance on the stroke of half time.

The second half break only seemed to re-energize the sides as both came out looking for the precious advantage to carry into the second-half in Calama (this evening). Paredes flashed a shot wide while Trecco headed over an Elizondo cross at the other end when it looked harder to miss the target.

It was the away side though that got the break. A long in swinging free-kick from near the half-way line found Cobreloa centre-back Cristian Suárez whose flicked header was saved by Prieto, but only as far as his centre back partner Rocco, who made no mistake with the rebound.

It should have been 3-1 minutes later but Elizondo contrived to miss an open goal with a controlled volley after Trecco had almost scored a wonderful solo goal, and it looked like Cobreloa would come to rue their missed opportunites as Carlos Muñoz slid in Paredes who this time rifled in the equaliser, albeit there was a hint of offside.

Yet it was not finished. With 60 seconds left in stoppage time Trecco picked Millar’s pocket, side stepped a despairing sliding tackle, drove on unchecked and unleashed a phenomenal effort from fully 25-yards into the top corner. GOLAZO!

The 23-year-old scoring a deserved, and what could prove decisive, goal for his individual performance and setting up a fantastic meeting in Calama.

Universidad Católica 1 v 2 Universidad de Chile

The Clásico Universitario was a typical derby affair; goals, red cards, feistiness, controversy and incident. Oh! And Universidad de Chile continued on their merry way, taking their unbeaten run to 36 games, coming from behind to win.

La U, with the same XI that won the Copa Sudamericana on Wednesday, were the first to threaten, Marcos González seeing his header cleared off the line. That was after Matías Rodríguez had two penalty appeals within ten seconds turned down.

It would be the other González, Osvaldo, who was in the thick of the action for the first goal. Turning to face goalkeeper Jhonny Herrera to play a simple back pass, he badly under-hit the pass, allowing Kevin Harbottle to nip in and rasp home the opening goal from an acute angle.

If you have read the website for the last few months or watch Chilean football regularly you will know that there are some very good talents being produced in the country. But after Eduardo Vargas the one player who has all the makings of a top player is 21-year-old Harbottle. He has a low-centre of gravity that is so popular in players these days while possessing blistering pace, two good feet and an armoury of tricks. He spent much of the game causing problems for La U’s backline. Played up front he drifted from side to side causing most concern for the away side by pulling wide left into the space behind Rodríguez.

Marcos González was again foiled, this time by a linesman’s flag, before the equaliser came as half-time appeared on the horizon. Marcelo Díaz played Eugenio Mena down the left. The left-wing back’s deep cross was knocked down by Vargas to Rodríguez who done just enough to knock the ball into Charles Aránguiz’s path to sweep past Cristopher Toselli.

In the first 35 minutes UC had done to La U what La U had done to so many other teams in the last year, pressing the ball and closing space for Los Azules to play in. But the away side have shown all season that they are too good not to respond.

The second half was a battle. Not pretty to play in. Not pretty to referee. Not pretty to watch. The best chance falling to Vargas in the opening stages from a deep ball from Aránguiz.

The game woke from its slumber when Católica captain, Milovan Mirosevic, was shown his second yellow card of the game on 65 minutes. Five minutes later Cató;s day got that much worse. On for Francisco Castro Pablo Magalhaes swung in a hopeful ball after La U one in deep in UC’s half. Mena, one of Sampaoli’s most dependable players, came of the left-flank to control a volley in to the top corner, giving the Apertura champions a massive advantage for the return match on Thursday.

In the aftermath Jorge Ormeño was given a straight red card, the referee not taking kindly to something he said.

There were chances at either end before the final whistle. Vargas heading straight at Toselli while Matís Mier brought a springing save from Herrera.

Because away goals do not come into it Católica need to win by two goals to reach the final having finished below La U in the Clausura table.

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