Universidad de Chile’s hunt for an unprecedented seven trophies in 2012 took another blow in Japan.
Defeat on penalties to Kashima Antlers in the Suruga Bank Championship means it is now one trophy, the 2012 Apertura, from three with a further four to come in the second half of the year – Clausura, Copa Sudamericana, Recopa Sudamericana and Copa Chile.
Jorge Sampaoli and the club were taking the game in Kashima with the utmost seriousness. Arriving in Australia last week to prepare; acclimatising to the time difference and conditions.
Sampaoli’s ambitions were reflected in his team selection and his minor dispute with the ANFP as he wanted to postpone Ángelo Henríquez’s departure with the Under-20 side currently touring Europe until after the match.
Despite a positive start La U fell two behind within the first 30 minutes. An own goal Daiki Iwamasa, who incidentally opened the scoring for Antlers, brought Los Azules back into the match five minutes before half-time.
La U upped the ante in the second half and pushed the Japanese side deeper into their own half as they increased their pressure. Chances came and went as the ball was thundered around the final third until Eugenio Mena – La U’s most underrated player – was felled in the area. Charles Aránguiz stepped up and levelled the scorers.
With three recent signings – Ezequiel Videla (subbed off in the first half), Lucian Civelli and Enzo Gutiérrez – struggling to impress La U could not find the winner that their second half pressure perhaps deserved. And with no extra-time it meant the lottery of penalties.
With Jhonny Herrera in fine form Los Azules swept O’Higgins aside in their last penalty shoot-out to claim the Apertura title, but the outcome would be different in Japan as Francisco Castro missed the crucial penalty, setting up a 7-6 Kashima Antlers win to keep the trophy in Japan for the third year running.
Highlights of the game and penalties: