My Primera División output has been poor of late due to my lack of internet access which means I have seen little from the last two weekends. So here is a quick round-up of the last couple of week’s action where there have been two rounds of league fixtures, the Copa Libertadores and a Chile friendly.
No longer 2011
Universidad de Chile have not had the best of starts to the new year. With the Copa Sudamericana success still very much in focus (you rarely see Universidad de Chile without the words ‘Copa Sudamericana winners’ preceding their name) La U’s tilt at the Copa Libertadores has not got off to the best start, falling to defeat in their first game. Missing Matías Rodríguez Jorge Sampaoli went with a lop-sided formation which, even with his tactical acumen, the team did not pull off as they fell to a 2-0 defeat in Colombia against Atlético Nacional. Read Euan Marshall’s excellent analysis on the match.
It was the culmination of a horrible five days for La U. On the Friday night (10th of February) their ‘home’ game with Deportes Iquique was abandoned only minutes into the second half as flares and firecrackers rained down from the stands with the scores at 1-1.
The first half was a wonderful advert for Chilean football; both teams happy to attack, lined up in expansive systems and the game played at a ferocious pace. However with the game staged at Unión Española’s Estadio Santa Laura it prompted a protest from the home crowd namely the supporters group Los de Abajo who were allegedly unhappy about home league games taking place at the Estadio Nacional and also because certain privileges had been taken away from them by the club’s owners, Azul Azul.
At first the game was delayed for a few minutes after half-time as flares were chucked into the Deportes Iquique box, narrowly missing goalkeeper ??? and one that was close to striking La U midfielder Charles Aránguiz as he ran with the ball. The second half had barely got underway when a more flares poured onto the pitch making it impossible for the referee to carry on.
As of yet no decision has been made on the game. But, allowing me to speculate, it could be that Iquique are given the three points.
There was better news at the weekend as Los Azules won 3-1 at Palestino.
The Red One’s curse of the Red Fury
Over the last few weeks their have been a few words on these pages gushing at the potential of Unión Española, their players and the way they play football (here and here). Yet we go on a break and what happens? Española only go and lose their next two games. First a 2-0 home loss to O’Higgins – who themselves have started well with 7 points from 12 – followed by a 3-1 defeat in San Felipe against Unión San Felipe. And Mauro Díaz played the full 90 minutes in both games!
It is hard to determine what exactly has gone wrong but we should find out this week. Is it because of the squad rotation that has been in place? Or is it because they are not as good as I have made out? Games against Bolívar (away) in the Copa Libertadores and Universidad Católica (home) in the league before playing Cató again in the Libertadores will give a better answer.
Wandering under the radar
Looking at the Primera table there may be an unfamiliar name for many sitting atop of the league. New boss Arturo Salah has masterminded Santiago Wanderers’ early ascent to the summit of the Apertura with three wins and a defeat. Since falling to an opening day defeat (2-1) at Huachipato, Wanderers have scored nine which has brought wins over Universidad Católica and Audax Italiano as well as new boys Rangers.
There may be some concern over the number of goals being leaked – seven in the four games – but with Sebastián Ubilla on fine form – five goals already – they are a constant threat. The 21-year-old, a mobile and talented striker, is ably backed up by Juan Lorca, Pablo Calandria and the tricky Argentine Sebastián Rusculleda.
Having had to come through a play-off against Primera B side Naval to stay in the league at the end of 2011, Salah is now entertaining thoughts about reaching the Apertura play-offs and a possible place in this years Copa Sudamericana, albeit tentative ones at that.
I have been effervescent in my praise for the Díaz’s, Mauro and Marcelo, but I think over the next few weeks Colo Colo’s midfield man Rodrigo Millar will come in for some much deserved affection. In the season preview I alluded to Colo Colo’s dependence on Esteban Paredes when it comes to scoring goals. However Millar is the club’s top scorer with four goals from midfield.
Ivo Basay has seemingly got Los Albos up and running of late and at the heart of the improvement is Millar. Not only his goals but his all-round, all-action play. Played in a more advanced position than the two Díaz’s the former Huachipato player has supplemented an attack that his beginning to find life while helping a wide four in midfield.
He may not have the fantasy of other Chilean ‘no 10s’, namely Jorge Valdivia, but he makes up for it in his industry, consistency and intelligence as he takes up correct positions or times his runs down to the millisecond. El Cacique have added a number of new players but one of their mainstays appears to be the key.
Six teams, no wins
Three points separate 10th and 18th as six teams are yet to experience the winning feeling as we briefly had our first managerial casualty of the season.
In 17th sit Audax Italiano. The same team who were challenging at the top of the 2011 Clausura, but two draws and two defeats from their first four games prompted manager Omar Laburna to tender his resignation. However it was swiftly rebuked by an understanding and patient Los Tanos board. He wanted to give some “respite” to his board but was met with a firm answer which he told prensafutbol.cl: “The club showed me that I must be here. The leadership has endorsed the confidence in my coaching staff for the work we do and are confident we will achieve results.”
Other teams that find themselves at the bottom are Cobresal and Deportes La Serena. The former narrowly missed out on the Clausura play-offs while the latter finished 6th. Palestino, complete with Robert Flores and an entertaining attack, had visions of reaching the Apertura play-offs under new coach Daniel Carreño but languish on two points.
Paraguay gain revenge
A young, domestic-based Chile squad went down 2-0 to Paraguay in Luque, Paraguay. Chile had won the first match between the two 3-2 in December. Read about the game at Viva La Roja Mierda where you’ll also find highlights of the goals.