History could not be made for Chilean teams in the Copa Libertadores as Universidad Católica slumped out of the group stage, finishing in last place to leave Universidad de Chile and Unión Española to flying the flag for Chile.
Cato travelled to Bolivia needing a victory over Bolívar to finish second behind fellow Chileans Unión Española in group three. However they were up against a Bolivian side who themselves were trying to become the first Bolivian side to reach the knock-out stages since 2000. And in the end were beaten by the better side.
Disaster struck for Católica with little under two minutes on the clock as they fell asleep at a short corner routine, allowing Rudy Cardozo to steal into the box and at the second attempt hook a shot across the six-yard box where the ball bounced off Pablo Frontini, eventually being bundled into his own net by the unfortunate Enzo Andía.
Twenty-five minutes later and Cato’s continental campaign was all but over. Another corner, this time played straight into the middle of the six-yard box, was acrobatically cleared by Cristopher Toselli. The danger appeared to be over only for Bolívar captain Walter Flores to pick up the ball 30-yards from goal, steady himself before unleashing a rocket, bending away from Toselli and into the right-hand corner. A goal partly blamed on the movement of the ball at altitude. But it was game over. Campaign over.
A third goal, which did not flatter Bolívar, was added shortly after the 15-minute interval. A flaccid Cato attack was easily stopped by Bolívar who, with two simple passes, carved the UC’s defence wide open. Frontini won possession and played the ball out to Juan Carlos Arce on the right. With time to turn Arce floated a ball over the Cato defence to meet the run of Damián Lizio and as the ball dropped over his shoulder he ignored the attentions of two defenders to lift the ball over a stranded Toselli from 20 yards.
Católica’s Libertadores campaign wasn’t lost last night but in the two home games where they threw away points with draws against Bolívar and Junior. However it did not stop Mario Lepe coming for criticism once again for tactical errors and little in the way of attacking impetus despite a host of talent in the forward areas. And it may not be long before Lepe follows Ivo Basay in leaving his post with two wins in his last eight.
Unión Española fell to a 2-1 defeat in Colombia against Junior de Barranquilla to compound a bad night for the Chilean sides but remain top of the group to set up a mouth-watering clash with Argentine giants Boca Juniors.
Jose Luis Sierra sent out a relatively strong team while resting important players such as Gonzalo Villagra and Emmanuel Herrera, using the depth he possesses in his squad. And La Furia Roja could not have asked for a better start.
Thirteen minutes in and Emiliano Vecchio deceived Carlos Rodríguez – whose night would get worse – in the Junior goal with a curling free-kick that ended up finishing in the middle of the goal.
However there would be a crazy 12 minute spell between the 23 and 35 minute as Junior turned the game on its head with two penalty kicks all the while seeing Rodríguez dismissed.
First up was Sherman Cárdenas to stroke his penalty straight down the middle after Luis Páez had been felled by Marcos Hidalgo. Páez commandeered responsibility for the second penalty once Eduardo Lobos had been booked for bringing down Juan Núñez and sent the goalkeeper the wrong way.
Sandwiched in between the penalties Carlos Rodríguez’s evening went from bad to worse as he was shown a straight red card.
Despite the defeat it has been a wonderful achievement for La Furia Roja to negotiate the group stage and find themselves amongst the continents biggest teams.