A quiet week in Chile? No not really. So what is in store for Week 11. Unión Española and Colo Colo took part in arguably the game of the year so far and one of the best games anywhere The Red One has witnessed this season. High-tempo football? Check. Goals? Check. Unreliable defences? Check.
Elsewhere Cobreloa suffered a Nelson Acosta hangover in Santiago while Santiago Wanderers of Valparaíso were brought back down to Earth with a bump in Santiago, blue is colour in the top places of Apertura and there was varying degrees of success for new (and relatively new) managers.
Off the field there is a worrying situation developing at Colo Colo between certain players and fans while we look ahead to the first big Santiago derby and share some transfer news surrounding two of Chile’s most promising defenders.
Unión Española and Colo Colo serve up a thriller
I had the misfortune of tuning in to Sunderland v Tottenham Hotspur and Dunfermline v Heart of Midlothian on Saturday afternoon. One journalist described the former as one of the ‘nillest nil-nil’s he has seen in some time’ while the first 45 minutes of the Scottish Premier League encounter could best be described as turgid. Other way’s of describing it could be an assault on the eyes or an abomination for football all around the world.
But the games turned out to be a test. A test of character, a test of mental strength. I could easily have given up on football for the rest of the day and locked myself in a darkened room until it was safe to come back out.
Instead I found a stream for Unión Española v Colo Colo and watched what could turn out to be one of the best games of football not involving Athletic Bilbao I have witnessed this season.
Okay, neither defence covered itself in glory but that always makes for an exciting spectacle. Away from the natural failings of the two sets of defences both teams played on the front foot, zipping the ball about the pitch using forwards in wider positions ably supported by attacking full-backs.
The game ebbed and flowed.
Carlos Muñoz (more on him later) put Los Albos ahead from the spot after Bruno Romo – surging from left-back – was upended on the corner of the box. Right on half-time Mauro Díaz equalised from six yards.
Between Muñoz’s opener in the 25th minute and the 79th minute football was played at a breakneck speed in the Santiago heat, chances were created and fluffed while luck stayed with the defenders and goalkeepers and Mauro Olivi was a constant threat in a wide position with added freedom for Colo Colo.
He left the field with 11 minutes remaining and La Furia Roja went ahead with 11 minutes remaining, Emmanuel Herrera rising unchallenged in the middle of the box to nod the home side in front.
Barely three minutes later and Colo Colo had equalised. Esteban Paredes stayed on side to collect a pass through on goal and with consummate ease he put goalkeeper Pablo Reinoso on the ground with a feint one way, taking the ball the other and rolling it into the empty net. Raul-esque.
But those pesky defensive frailties raised their head above the parapet allowing central defender Diego Scotti adequate time to cheekily flick Española back in the lead. And there was no equalising goal in the four minutes remaining. Just another for the Española; Fernando Cordero poking a volley past Prieto.
Faith in football restored.
Now Unión Española host Bolívar on Tuesday evening (early hours of Wednesday morning here) knowing a win will secure qualification from Group 3 of the Copa Libertadores.
As leadership problems continue to rumble on at boardroom level Colo Colo have failed to put two of the same results together: DWDWLDLWLWL.
Cobreloa continue to plummet
After four defeats in a row brought an end to Nelson Acosta’s spell in charge at Cobreloa it was hoped that the Calama side would be able to arrest the slump which had taken them from the upper echelons of the league early on in the Apertura out of the play-offs and down to the dregs of the Primera Divisón.
Except it seems that the disappointment surrounding the playing squad over Acosta’s exit continues to linger; the Miners were well beaten by Mario Lepe’s Universidad Católica on Sunday evening.
Once again Felipe Gutiérrez led the way for Cato scoring two goals in a thumping 5-1 win. Roberto Ovelar opened the scoring with help from slack Cobreloa defending before Gutiérrez scored his first of the game thanks to woeful goalkeeping from Luciano Palos. He easily knocked in a third before Cristian Milla’s goal for Cobreloa threatened a comeback. But Eduardo Leal and David Gazale added goals four and five with little resistance.
It was a big result for Cato who all but had their hopes of qualification to the Copa Libertadores knock-out stages all but ended earlier in the week as they fell 3-0 in Colombia to Junior de Barranquilla. However it may not have been the greatest result in terms of their year so far with the matchup with Colo Colo on the horizon. Cato has yet to put back-to-back wins together in 2012.
Interim coach Roberto Spicto vowed to go out and attack Cato but his game plan back fired and now Cobreloa await appointment of a new coach with former Los Mineros coach Jorge Aravena linked with the vacant post.
La U respect Santiago Wanderers before winning comfortably
Jorge Sampaoli and Universidad de Chile have not been shy to voice their ambitions of Copa Libertadores success even if they have announced that it will be extremely difficult to win their second continental trophy in barely six months.
This has led to changes being made for domestic games, of which La U had won 8 of 10 before welcoming Arturo Salah’s high-flying Santiago Wanderers to the Estadio Nacional, as Sampaoli makes use of his thriving squad.
Yet, on the back of three straight wins for Wanderers Sampaoli sent out arguably his strongest XI, even after the mid-week exertions in the Copa Libertadores as El Chuncho qualified for the knock-out stages with a 1-0 win against Godoy Cruz in Argentina.
A clear sign of respect for the job Salah has undertook in Valparaíso.
However once the game started La U got on with the job at hand and Ángelo Henríquez added another fine goal to his burgeoning reputation. The 17-year-old followed up his winner in Mendoz during the week by streaking away from the Wanderers defence to run onto Charles Aránguiz’s through, round Mauricio Viana and fire inside the post with his left foot.
The star had broken out. And now the star has been born.
Second half goals were added by Junior Fernándes and Emilio Hernández, netting his first since returning to Los Azules.
Comparisons are always going to be made with the all-conquering 2011 side which won the Copa Sudamericana especially as they still look to replicate the performances on a regular basis but as Tom Robinson points out in an attacking sense the new signings (Junior Fernándes), younger players (Ángelo Henríquez) and players still at the club (Gustavo Lorenzetti) have all stepped up to the point where it is Eduardo Who?
Blue is the colour
Deportes Iquique joined Santiago Wanderers in third place thanks to a 3-1 triumph at home to Deportes La Serena. 20-year-old Jonathan Rebolledo with the pick of the goals; a fine solo effort after winning his own headed knock-down.
The win was achieved without the influential Edson Puch. And it is something that The Blue Dragons may have to get used to after the club confirmed it will be difficult to keep the forward beyond his loan spell which ends in the summer. It is expected that Diego Maradona will want him to return to Al-Wasl and Iquique will unlikely be able to afford a permanent deal.
O’Higgins joined Universidad de Chile at the top of the table for 24 hours with their 2-1 win over second-bottom Unión San Felipe.
It was the Rancagua side’s sixth win in seven games. A remarkable feat and a stunning transformation under Eduardo Berizzo with a play-off spot now all but secured with six games remaining.
Their last games have produced four wins all by the single goal highlighting the difficulty for opposition teams to break the defence more than once.
Although San Felipe’s Pablo Vranjicán should be commended for stumbling to the ground but still managing to squeeze a shot past Luis Marín to level the scores.
While Cobreloa lost in emphatic style post Nelson Acosta, how did the other three clubs who have dispensed of managers fare?
Cobresal lost. We should know by now that it’s a given. Braian Rodríguez scored a cracking free-kick in Huachipato’s 2-0 win who find themselves well placed in the play-off positions dreaming of qualification to the Copa Sudamericana later in the year.
Rangers defeated Unión La Calera 2-0 in Dalcio Giovagnoli’s third game in charge while Universidad de Concepción won their first game in four with a 2-0 home win over Palestino, giving Yuri Fernandez his first win.
The 2012 season is barely four months old but has already been marred by worrying amount of fan violence. A pre-season game between Colo Colo and Universidad de Chile had to be temporarily stopped due to crowd disturbances while La U’s fans forced the suspension of their game with Huachipato at Unión Española’s Estadio Santa Laura over incidents allegedly relating to the non-use of the Estadio Nacional, ticket prices and/or less control for the club’s Ultra’s. The club’s ultras – Los de Abajo (Loosely translated as The One’s Below) – were also in the news due to clashes with Godoy Cruz fans.
However it is the turn of Colo Colo fans to receive news coverage. The leader of the Colo Colo fan group ‘Garra Blanca’ phoned Muñoz to tell him that if he did not apologise for comments in the media he would not be able to stop fans from physically assaulting the player.
Certain fans had taken exception to some of Muñoz’s comments in the media which allegedly portrayed him as unhappy at the club.
Muñoz told Prensafutbol.com: “On Friday, when we were focusing before the Unión Española game I got a call from the head of the group, called ‘Pancho Malo’ I think, saying that he is not responsible for what happens to me; a group of fans who would beat me and I had to fix the situation and apologise publically.’
Young Chilean talent is all the rage
Eduardo Vargas is at Napoli, Bryan Carrasco and Matías Campos Toro have had talks with Udinese and Granada respectively while Manchester United has first option on Ángelo Henríquez.
Now it could be the turn of two more promising Chileans; defenders André Robles and Igor Lichnovsky.
It is suggested 17-year-old Robles will sign with Spanish side Villarreal while continuing his development with Santiago Wanderers until the end of the 2012 Chilean season. The defender has made four appearances so far this season for the Valparaíso outfit and was even called-up by Claudio Borghi to the national side consisting of domestic based players.
Lichnovsky is a year older, playing six times for Universidad de Chile. Like Robles the defender is highly thought of in Chile and has attracted interest from Chelsea amongst other teams. But according to media in Italy it appears Internazionale are favourites to sign the player.
Clásico de Inconsistencia
The first Clásico involving two of the big three takes place this Saturday as Universidad Católica make the trip to the Estadio Monumental to face Colo Colo. I will admit the ‘Clásico de Inconsistencia’ does not have the nicest ‘ring’ to it but it seems appropriate considering some of the stats provided earlier. Namely the two side’s inability to put consecutive wins together.
Los Cruzados 5-1 hammering of Cobreloa and Colo Colo’s 4-2 defeat to Unión Española suggests a possible win for El Cacique. I, however, am going for a draw. It’s too big a game for either side to win. It’s more a case of can’t win it than won’t win it.
In a side note Kevin Harbottle should be back in the squad for Saturday. Ángelo Henríquez has stepped up to the big time this season. It is time for Harbottle to also take the next step in his progression and development.
It would be rude to leave out the one remaining result; Antofagasta 1-2 Audax Italiano.