The past weekend saw the commencement of the Apertura play-off semi-finals, and there were surprises in store with the top two of the regular season losing their first-legs without registering a goal.
On Saturday O’Higgins lost 1-0 at Unión Española thanks to a goal from the impressive Emiliano Vecchio and 24 hours later Universidad de Chile succumbed 2-0 to Colo Colo in an empty Estadio Monumental in a surreal encounter with a sodden pitch and two red cards . . . for Colo Colo.
It concluded a miserable week for La U who arguably put in their most insipid display under Jorge Sampaoli at La Bombonera against Boca Juniors in the Copa Libertadores semi-final first-leg. La U are now required to overturn two two goal deficit’s this week in two separate competitions.
In more positive news San Marcos de Arica triumphed in the Primera B Apertura to collect their first divisional title since 1981 and confirm their place in the end of season promotion play-offs.
Unión Española 1-0 O’Higgins
A solitary Emiliano Vecchio strike was enough to give La Furia Roja a slim advantage heading into the second-leg in Rancagua.
The teams played out an exciting first-half on a difficult cut-up pitch, and a solid second half from José Luis Sierra’s men makes it advantage Española – just – in their quest to cap an exciting six months.
Both sides exchanged headed chances; César Fuentes glanced a header past Eduardo Lobos’ far post before Sebastián Jaime saw his headed off the line.
Eight minutes from half-time Española went ahead when Vecchio pounced on a loose ball in the O’Higgins box, after Jaime’s excursions were blocked, to slide a shot past Luis Marín in front of the large away following. Vecchio had already been denied by Marín earlier in the half after a driving, twisting and turning run. The stocky Argentine is blossoming into an essential component of La Furia Roja’s attack after early problems with fitness. In full flow he is an unstoppable force as he combines raw pace and power with quick feet, a deft touch and even silkier trickery.
Replacing the influential Mauro Díaz in the side, he has changed the dynamic of attack. Emmanuel Herrera and Díaz had a great understanding but as Herrera’s goals have arrived less frequently Vecchio is now the engine and accelerator of the attack.
The return-leg is this coming Saturday and will be just as tight as the weekend’s encounter. 13 of O’Higgins’ 20 games in 2012 have been decided by a single goal (1-0, 2-1, 3-2 etc). O’Higgins know that a single goal victory will take them through to the final thanks to their higher league placing in the regular season.
Colo Colo 2-0 Universidad de Chile
It feels like the beginning of the end. The end of a glorious era in Chilean football. Consecutive 2-0 defeats leave Universidad de Chile on the brink of their season ending prematurely when it promised so much.
The losses to Boca Juniors and Colo Colo have been more than just defeats. Both performances have lacked the vigour, panache, energy and pace that we have all come to represent with this La U side. And, perhaps, that is most worrying.
In Buenos Aires Los Azules did not look like they would score. In el superclasico they created better opportunities but did not dominate the game like that have done so often, and did so earlier in the year when they trounced Colo Colo 5-0. Even when Los Albos fell to ten then nine men there seemed little confidence that they could score a goal let alone turn the result around.
It is appearing more and more evident that the players are running on empty and the vast number of games of late is becoming too much. Since the February 2nd La U have played 31 matches.
Both Marcelo Díaz and Charles Aránguiz played four games in nine days (Venezuela (away), Cobreloa, Boca and Colo Colo), Osvaldo González played in three and José Rojas played in two while carrying an injury. The squad players have simply not been utilised or been good enough (delete appropriate to your opinion).
In part this leads to questions about the clubs transfer business; Eduardo Morante and Pedro Morales, anyone?
That is a debate and article for later as Colo Colo used the hurt of the 5-0 defeat to their eternal rivals earlier in the season, channelled it and looked a side reborn as they avenged ‘los cinco’.
Luis Peréz – unlikely to be given the job full-time even with an Apertura title – sent out a side that showed no fear of La U and attacked a weary opponent. At times Los Albos resembled 4-2-2-2/4-2-4.
Claudio Muñoz was the first to threaten for ‘el Cacique’, flashing a shot past Jhonny Herrera’s far-post having been played in behind La U’s back-three.
The game took place behind closed doors after Colo Colo were punished for their fans behaviour at La Florida when Los Albos played Audax Italiano earlier in the campaign. Despite appealing the punishment the ANFP upheld their decision to not allow any fans in to watch the clash with ‘el Chuncho’ but club members will be allowed into the stadium for the next three matches.
And they missed a stunning opening goal from Esteban Paredes in what could be his last match at the Estadio Monumental as he moves to Mexican football to join Atlante. Picking up possession 40 yards from goal he was allowed to turn and carry the ball as La U’s defence backed off. Once in the vicinity of the box Paredes let fly from 25 yards, his shot arrowing unto the top corner beyond a helpless Herrera.
Los Azules should have equalised on the stroke of half-time through Eugenio Mena – by which time Álvaro Ormeño had been given a red card for Los Albos. The left wing-back contrived to hit the bar from three yards out with an open goal in front of him after great work from Aránguiz to stand a cross up to the back post.
Seconds into the second half and Colo Colo had doubled their lead when Paredes slid in Bryan Rabello to score his first goal of the year, firing under Herrera. The 18-year-old had been called up to the Chile national side by Claudio Borghi after promising performances with the Under-20 side and his seen as a big talent.
Another stick that is used to be beat ex-boss Ivo Basay is his under-use of the talented youngster who made his debut when he was 16 – becoming the second youngest player to play for Chile’ grandest team.
There is talk of a move to Sevilla but with more game time he is keen to stay with Colo Colo for a while yet. One hopes he does and Chile do not lose another talent to European football before we see the best of him in the Primera División.
Even a second red-card, shown harshly to Paredes, did not give La U the impetus to make things easier for them the second-leg.
Before Universidad de Chile even contemplates overturning their rivals they have the small matter of a Copa Libertadores second-leg to take care of against Boca on Thursday.
San Marcos’ Primera B title
On the site we perhaps neglect the Primera B (actually there is no perhaps about it) but at the weekend San Marcos de Arica become Apertura champions; only the second piece of silverware in the clubs history.
CDA thought they had won the title the previous weekend when they defeated Unión Temuco at home in front of 10,000 fans. But an incorrect announcement of title rivals Barnechea’s result led to the sporadic disappointment that they would have to wait another week.
No matter Barnechea’s result, CDA knew that a draw would suffice as they travelled south to face Deportes Concepción. And a draw is what they got, playing out a 0-0 stalemate while Barnechea lost 2-1 to Ñublense.
As mentioned San Marcos now go into a promotion play-off at the end of the year to play for a place in the Primera División.
If you want to read more on San Marcos’ achievement I highly recommend digesting Arica local Adam Brandon’s article on the club which can be found here: http://caniggiascores.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/san-marcos-de-arica-3-0-union-temuco-11/