Apertura 2012: Week 1 Round-up – The new season gets off to a tame start in the heat

Catolica and Palestino clash (IMG: ANFP)

With the Clausura’s top two – Universidad de Chile and Cobreloa – not in action there was a chance for one of the contenders to lay down an early marker as Santiago inhabitants looked to escape the baking heat which had swept the capital.

However Colo Colo were booed off at home to Deportes Iquique – who had new signing Edson Puch impressing on his debut – while Universidad Católica recovered from an insipid first half performance to collect three points. There was better news for Union  Española who added to their first round first-leg Coap Libertadores win with maximum points.

The two promoted teams enjoyed mix fortunes back in the Primera.

O’Higgins 1-0 Antofagasta

The Primera División newcomers kicked off the new season on Friday away to Rancagua side O’Higgins, and will feel disappointed in not taking anything from the match. Ramón Fernández, picking the ball up near the half-way line drove at the Pumas defence, beating two men and unleashed a powerful left-footed shot which flew past Sebastián López in the Antofagasta goal.

O’Higgins started well with their wing-backs offering width and pushing high up the pitch while Antofagasta posed a danger on the break before taking control of the game during the first half. However they were let down by their forwards lack of composure when chances presented themselves; Fernando Martel the most culpable, making a hash of two presentable opportunities.

O’Higgins coach Eduardo Berizzo admitted that the result took precedent over performance in his first competitive game in charge at his new club. In the end Ramón Fernández’s goal was the difference.

Rangers 2-0 Deportes La Serena

Where Antofagasta failed, Rangers succeeded in getting their Apertura campaign of to a positive start. Two second half goals either side of a red card won what was an encounter lacking in sufficient attacking quality.

One of the very few moments of fine attacking play prompted the first goal not long after half-time. Germán Lessman’s cross from the left was flicked into the path of the onrushing José Silva whose left-foot volley beat Rainer Wirth at his near post.

With Rangers cruising Luis Oyarzún needlessly got himself sent off with a ‘flick of the head’ towards La Serena substitute Minor Lopez. The incident epitomised a scrappy second half which seen a number of pointless off the ball skirmishes.

Milton Caraglio secured the three points five minutes after the red card with an all too easy free-kick which rolled under the wall and into the bottom corner.

Palestino 1-2 Universidad Católica

Arguably the game of the weekend saw a new look Palestino under Daniel Carreño fall to Mario Lepe’s Universidad Católica in a game which saw two different Católica sides.

In the first half UC struggled to adapt to the game, their midfield constantly producing unforced errors, giving the ball away in dangerous areas against a Palestino side with a host of attacking players ready to take advantage of the space in behind the away sides defence.

Jason Silva’s beautifully curled free-kick came back off the bar before Matías Mier, almost undeservedly, put Cató in front. New Paraguayan striker Roberto Ovelar’s shot spun, off a defender, to Mier who swept home a lovely half volley into the far corner.

El Tricolor drew level in an instant when a wonderful run from Carlos Peréz, aided by persistence, took him in behind UC’s defence before a composed finish beat Cristopher Toselli.

Católica were much better in the second half. They rid themselves off the patience that seemed to hamper their first half for quicker, more direct passes finding their forward players in more dangerous positions before Palestino could settle. Almost immediately they were back in front through Kevin Harbottle. Felipe Gutiérrez in a more advanced position clipped a pass to meet Harbottle’s dash and the gifted youngster slid his shot into the far corner.

There was almost a repeat of the first half when the ever dangerous Robert Flores hit the underside of the bar with an audacious 30 yard chip which bounced down off the line and back into the box. Toselli was quick to react making a great block from the rebound.

Through Harbottle, Michael Rios and half-time substitute Nicolás Trecco UC were a constant danger. Trecco bringing the artistry he showed at Cobreloa to Santiago. A Harbottle cross/shot resulted in Rios hitting the post while substitute Francisco Pizarro contrived to miss a glorious chance with the goal at his mercy close.

Palestino were not the threat they were in the first half but Nicolás Canales had a late chance to equalize but squandered it by lifting his shot high over the bar.

Colo Colo 0-0 Deportes Iquique

New season, same problems for Colo Colo. The full-time whistle was greeted with whistles and boos from the home support who showed their disdain at the performance, or lack of, against an Iquique side who may feel that they should have collected all three points.

Los Albos coach admitted that he replaced new signing Miguel Ángel González with Mathias Vidangossy before half-time because the crowd were ‘picking on’ the player who struggled to influence proceedings, playing behind a front three.

There was a good pace to the first half; both goalkeepers having to be alert off their line to thwart any through balls finding their target. The best chance of the half came when the excellent Edson Puch was denied by Francisco Prieto when through one-on-one after ‘breaking’ Colo Colo’s offside trap. Similarly in the second half Esteban Paredes was stopped by an outstretched arm of Iquique’s goalkeeper Rodrigo Naranjo as he attempted an impudent chip after running clear of the defence.

Both teams also saw attempts come back of the woodwork; Rodrigo Díaz’s free-kick for the away side and Roberto Gutiérrez’s header for El Cacique.

Audax Italiano 0-2 Unión Española

The final game of the weekend pitted two of the most exciting teams against each other and the game did not fail to deliver. Played on Los Tanos’ artificial surface the ball was zipped around with ferocity as both teams attacked relentlessly in the first half before the away side looked to tighten up with a two goal lead.

Jean Paul Pineda, having collected the ball in a wide left position, walked through the Italiano defence with too much ease, calmly scoring at the second attempt after 13 minutes.

The goal was the meat in a Felipe Mora missed chance sandwich. He followed up his first minute glaring miss with a wild finish from an unmarked position in the six-yard box. The miss would pale in significance to that of Mauro Diaz, Española’s on-loan River Plate star. Released inside the box the midfielder side-stepped Alejandro Sánchez’s dive at his feet, then took two defenders out the game – or so the thought – as they helplessly tried to provide cover on the line for their AWOL ‘keeper. Inches from the line, a certain goal, his shot was brilliantly blocked by one of the recovering defenders.

It was not to be a crucial miss as La Furia Roja were already two goals ahead thanks to debutant Emmanuel Herrera’s goal on the half-hour mark. The striker missed a further opportunity to add his tally having been set up by Dagoberto Currimilla.

The second half saw the away side’s defence stay resolute as Italiano poured men forward. With space negated in defence you got the feeling Española could take advantage and pick the home side off whenever they wanted.

The three points capped off a superb week for Union Española who had defeated Mexican side Tigres in the first round of the Copa Liberatadores in midweek; Gonzalo Barriga’s header the difference.

In the weekend’s other games Arturo Salah’s first game in charge of Santiago Wanderers ended in disappointment after letting a first half lead – given to them despite by Rodrigo Toloza – slip. Two goals in six minutes after the break from Brian Rodríuez handed Huachipato the three points. In front of a paltry crowd of 555 Cobresal and Unión San Felipe shared the points. Claudio Latorre’s ninth minute opener for the San Felipe was cancelled out by a Miguel Cúellar goal three minute later. Unión La Calera earned a draw at home to Universidad de Concepción thanks to a late strike from Angel Carreño. Gustavo Vargas’ debut goal since his move from Universidad de Chile had given Concepción the lead before the half hour mark.

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