Universidad de Chile 2-1 Peñarol – Rodríguez’s late strike puts La U in the driving seat to qualify for the knock-out stages

Mati Rodriguez's double floors Penarol

Universidad de Chile left it late to jump back into second place in Group 8 of the Copa Libertadores, overcoming Peñarol 2-1 and ending the 2011 finalists’ campaign in the process.

La U went ahead early in the first half and looked in a confident position even when José Rojas squandered a penalty. However it appeared as if the missed chance from 12 yards would cost them as the Uruguayans equalised after the break but Matías Rodríguez popped up in injury time to score another crucial goal which leaves Los Azules only one point behind group leaders Atlético Nacional.

With little under three minutes on the clock Junior Fernándes powered down the cross and fired a low cross which was spilled by Fabián Carini and bundled in by Rodríguez.

The game looked like going from good to excellent from a La U perspective when Eugenio Mena was felled by João Pedro who appeared to pull out the challenge. Justice was done when Rojas blazed over from the resultant penalty kick. The fans are a considerable distance away from the play at the Estadio Nacional, yet even those sitting high up behind the goal would have been concerned by the captain’s wild strike.

‘El Chuncho’ couldn’t quite find a second that their play perhaps deserved and were a little fortunate to see Luis Aguiar’s stoppage time free-kick come back of the junction of bar and post.

Aguiar would be involved in the Uruguayans equaliser as Carlos Valdéz rose highest to meet the ex-Braga player’s corner six minutes into the second half. The header was straight at Jhonny Herrera in the Universidad de Chile goal but enigmatic ‘keeper saw the effort spin of his right hand and over the line.

Despite Peñarol’s need for a goal being greater La U continued to press knowing that the difference between one and three points could be vital in their attempts to progress from a tricky group. Raúl Ruidíaz looked to have blown becoming the hero for the evening after firing over having been located 12 yards out by Gustavo Lorenzetti.

However two minutes into injury time Rodríguez put the finishing touches to a patient move, squeezing the ball over a line crowded with black and yellow shirts. Fernándes clipped a ball over the defence to meet the run of substitute Emilio Hernández who fired the ball across the centre of the box finding Mena surging from the left. Mena lined up to score but just as he was closed down he showed sufficient composure to turn back and lay pass into the eagerly waiting Rodríguez who took a touch and found the necessary space to clinch the three points.

Next up for Universidad de Chile is a trip to Argentina to face Godoy Cruz on Wednesday 4th of April. Three points will confirm Jorge Sampaoli’s side’s participation in the knock-out stages of South American’s premier competition.

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