The Copa Sudamericana kicked off this week with the competition’s first phase which excludes the qualifiers from Argentina and Brazil – who enter at the second phase – and holders Universidad de Chile – who enter at the third phase as the holders.
Two Chilean teams were in action against Paraguayan opposition in the opening games with a further two playing their first game of the tournament next week.
Up first were Cobreloa and O’Higgins, emerging from their duels with Paraguay’s Tacuary and Cerro Porteño with a 4-3 aggregate win for Chile. However it will be Cobreloa feeling more satisfied with their 1-0 win in Paraguay, in comparison to La Celeste who came from behind twice to draw 3-3 at home to Cerro Porteño, one of Paraguay’s biggest clubs.
Tacuary 0-1 Cobreloa
Cobreloa boss Javier Torrente admitted after the match that he was relieved that his side had finally broken their five game losing streak.
It was a tight affair in Ascunión on a tough pitch that was compared, even derided, as similar to that of Unión La Calera.
In a game of few chances it was Patricio Troncoso’s fizzing late strike that rewarded the Loínos, handing them a significant advantage going into the second-leg.
O’Higgins 3-3 Cerro Porteño
O’Higgins returned to continental competition for the first time in 20 years with the best game of the opening week of the Copa Sudamericana. It was everything the Cobreloa game wasn’t, manic and exciting as the teams shared six goals; Cerro coming from behind to lead once and O’Higgins coming from behind to level twice – the last 20 minutes throwing up four goals including a dramatic last-minute equaliser.
Eduardo Berizzo was left frustrated with his side’s inability to defend, the first goal for the Paraguayans suggesting that O’Higgins’ defenders were clueless as to what to do with this round ‘thing’ that moved.
The Cerro team was stocked with experienced internationalists and players that frequently partake in the Libertadores and Sudamericana but La Celeste frightened them by going ahead and exerting skill at attacking rapidly. But against teams of such quality it is important to defend with solidity and structure; a feature missing from the Chilean’s.
Cobreloa and O’Higgins have to wait until the 7th and 8th of August respectively to play their return legs. Deportes Iquique and Universidad Católica play next week. Iquique welcome Uruguayan giants Nacional to the Tierra de Campeones while Cato travel to Bolivia to face Blooming.