The tumultuous start to the Chilean Apertura continued as four teams picked up their first win of the season, Universidad de Chile suffered a heavy defeat in Rancagua, Colo Colo were booed off again and TRO keeps getting things wrong.
However a win still eludes Audax Italiano (and Cobresal) despite remaining highly watch-able. This time they were out-done by a Daniel Carreno’s Palestino who have been unlikely to have to wait until the fifth week to collect their first win. But from the game question marks still persist over the way Omar Labruna sets up his Audax side.
Elsewhere it was Cobreloa’s turn to occupy top spot after a comprehensive 3-0 success away at Rangers. Their sheer consistency has been enough to put them above everyone else, despite having played one game less.
Here is the week’s talking points and round-up:
Audax serve up an Italian battle but continue to struggle
In the last couple of years the battle of a wide 3-4-3 versus a narrow 4-3-1-2 has piqued the interest of many a tactical connoisseur, especially viewers of Serie A. Udinese and Napoli have been praised and now copied for their use of width and pace to exploit the space afforded by teams who play with a narrow midfield, for example AC Milan – who it has to be said won last year’s Serie A title.
On Friday night there was a similar case in Santiago as Audax Italiano and their 3-4-1-2 came up against Palestino’s 4-3-1-2. However it was the narrowness of Palestino that came out on top. Diego Chaves opened the scoring after half-time, taking advantage of Sebastián Silva’s error to slip a shot under Alejandro Sánchez before the perpetually excellent Robert Flores added a second on the counter-attack. Daniel González fizzed in a consolation from the edge of the box when a corner was only half cleared but Los Tanos could not find an equaliser.
Palestino concentrate their play through the middle with their trequartista Flores required to get on the ball as much as possible. The width is provided by the full-backs; right-back Mirko Opazo does this very well.
Audax play a very wide and open game. The three centre backs are spread across the pitch and play a reasonably high line. Their only real protection is two central midfielders who often have to cover wide areas because the wing-backs play like wingers. Something that would work if the team were constantly pressing the opposition, winning the ball high up the pitch and keeping it before making an incisive blow. However as TRO mentioned in the early weeks Audax are clearly missing a clinical striker. With Facundo Pereyra having moved on there is little in the way of a prolific marksman.
Los Tanos exert pressure on teams, especially with the tricky wing-play of Bryan Carrasco and Cristian Canuhé but are often left frustrated because of the all round profligacy.
If goals are not being scored the defence has to make up for it by proving resolute and almost impenetrable. However that is not the case. Opposition teams playing with a number 10 get an abundance of space and time between the midfield and defence making it all too easy to play through the centre of the team.
With the board rejecting Omar Labruna’s resignation it is worrying times for one of 2011’s impressive outfits and the manager’s potential insecurity may be playing on the team. Their next two games are away to unbeaten Deportes Iquique and home to Universidad de Chile.
At the moment there seems to be only one team who is threatening a level of consistency that would open up a gap to the rest with the league so tight. Nelson Acosta’s men have carried on their Clausura form, where they finished second in the League and reached the final of the play-offs. Despite losing Nicolás Trecco and Nicolás Peric it does not appear to have affected them. Instead Acosta has used all his years of experience and shrewdly played the transfer market to form a squad and unit to his liking – the ex-Chile boss is known for his organisation of a team.
Due to the opening game with Universidad de Chile being re-arranged Los Mineros had to wait an extra week to begin their season and made a tentative start winning one and drawing one, scoring only two goals. But they have found their form in front of goal in recent weeks, recording 4-2 and 3-0 wins. The latest at Rangers; Cristián Canío slipping in Felipe Flores to roll past Peric on the stroke of half-time. Flores then set up Cristián Milla for a tap-in before completing the scoring from the penalty spot after being pulled down in the box.
Felipe Flores is just one of the winter acquisitions who have had a positive effect on the Calama side after signing from Santiago Morning. He has netted three goals in four games as has veteran Canío, signed from Audax Italaino. A scheming creator has added guile to the side after the departure of Trecco.
And not to be left out defensive signing Juan Abarca from Universidad de Chile has slotted into defence and still only 23 may turn out to be a very good investment. He will be up against his old side on Tuesday evening as Cobreloa look to consolidate their position at the top of the Apertura.
Time for Sampaoli to tinker?
In the Apertura preview it was stated that the depth of the Universidad de Chile squad would see them prevail again as they juggle domestic games with the Copa Libertadores. However as of yet the team selection has been very consistent with one or two changes per game. It has brought about a mixed start of the season with three wins, two defeats and a draw (game was suspended). Games will only come thicker and faster if they qualify for the knock-out stages.
The weekend’s 3-0 reverse to O’Higgins may signify that it’s time for Sampaoli to rotate his squad to a greater degree. La U could have been ahead early on but were punished by Enzo Gutiérrez who steered in Nelson Robelledo’s cross at the front post. And in the second half O’Higgins added further goals through Guillermo Suárez’s penalty after Gutiérrez had been pulled back in the box and Ramón Fernández who poked past Jhonny Herrera once he had pounced on indecision in the box. The afternoon was compounded when Marcelo Díaz saw his penalty wonderfully saved by Chile international Luis Marín.
Last year youngsters Sebastián Martínez, Christian Bravo and more established squad players such as Luis Gallegos and Pablo Magalhaes proved they could produce when given a chance. Add in the exciting Ángelo Henríquez and Los Azules have the youthful talent and quality keep up appearances and thrive in the Apertura while allowing more influential players more rest after their travails in the Libertadores.
Midweek’s match with Cobreloa gives these players the ideal platform to impress due to half a dozen players involved with the national team in America as they wait to face Ghana.
Unpredictability or The Curse of The Red One?
Last week you may have noticed that the site was taking some of the blame for Unión Española’s poor recent form. Well in the last week La Furia Roja responded with an away win in the Copa Libertadores against Bolívar followed up by a last-gasp draw at home to Universidad Católica. However last week also saw the blog focus on Colo Colo and Santiago Wanderers. What happened this week? Yes you guessed right, both teams lost.
Not only that. A question was posed to me about Universidad de Chile away to O’Higgins. La U at ‘Evens’ to beat the Rancagua side. I advised said gambler to back the Azul. I took my own advice and as the game kicked off I was waiting on Los Azules to complete my four team accumulator. And we know exactly what happened.
Is this ‘TROs’ fault or does is emphasise the league’s sheer unpredictability? Looking at the league and the form of each side is can be put down to the latter thankfully. Five rounds in (well almost, Universidad de Chile and Cobreloa play this week to complete the outstanding fixture) and only four teams have won back to back matches and almost 40% of the games have been draws.
So with 12 rounds left do not expect, assume or guess. Just sit back and watch the scrap for the top eight places unfold.
Although if Cobreloa lose their next two games and Audax Italiano win at the weekend we can assume that TRO if playing a bigger part than first thought.
Week 5 Round-up
Fernando Vergara’s Deportes Iquique made it back-to-back wins and five games unbeaten, winning 1-0 at home to Huachipato and rising to 4th in the process. Álvaro Ramos clipped in the winner from close range mid-way through the first half as Iquique kept another clean sheet confirming themselves as the best defence in the league with only two goals conceded.
Colo Colo succumbed to their first defeat of the season provoking an irate response from the fans and a plea from talisman Esteban Paredes, backing the under-fire Ivo Basay. Universidad de Concepción, collecting their first win of the season, scored either side of half-time through a Pedro Muñoz brace to take a commanding lead. Mauro Olivi’s thunderous left-footer from the edge of the area 20 minutes from time could not spark a comeback in front of over 18,000 at the Estadio Monumental.
Deportes La Serena were another to record their first win of the season, overcoming Santiago Wanderers 3-1 in La Serena. A Mauricio Salazar double sandwiched Sebastián Ubilla’s sixth of the season before Matías Jadue made the three points safe deep into the second half.
Antofagasta and Unión San Felipe served up a forgettable encounter where neither net was rustled while Cobresal suffered another heavy defeat this time at the hands of Unión La Calera. The match was level at half time as Gáston Cellerino (La Calera) and Miguel Ángel Cuéllar (Cobresal) exchanged goals. But the away side ran riot in the second half scoring three without reply. Cellerino grabbed his second before further goals from Lucas Simon and Ignacio Quinteros completed a productive day in mining country for La Calera.
In the final game of the weekend Emmnauel Herrera rescued a late point for Unión Española at home to Universidad Católica. UC went ahead through Felipe Gutiérrez’s fourth goal in three games. The number 10 finished beautifully after lovely link-up play with Kevin Harbottle. Herrera beat Cristopher Toselli to a Fernando Cordero through ball to level the game on the half hour mark. But Cató went into the break in front after Matías Campos Toro arrowed a shot into the far corner after another slick move from the away side, although there were hints of offside. However Herrera left it late to rescue a point and consign UC to four draws in five games.