After the 13th round of fixtures three teams share the lead at the top with 26 points; Palestino in first place due to their greater number of wins. Tucked in behind are Universidad de Chile and Rangers.
La U finally got back to winning ways in a sun-baked Antofagasta while the game of the weekend saw Rangers travel to the soaking Estadio Monumental and share four goals with Colo Colo.
Friday night’s match once again saw goals and there was even a Monday night game which produced, yes you guessed it, goals.
In between the two games Universidad Católica got back to winning ways in the league while there was a Clásico in the Atacama.
Unión Española 2-2 Santiago Wanderers
An entertaining draw does little to help either side’s Clausura objectives; a place in the play-offs for Española while Wanderers look to avoid relegation.
The first half was a substandard affair with the home side unsurprisingly enjoying the majority of the possession. But it was Wanderers who went closest when Ariel Colzera naturally cut in from the right before firing a left-footed shot off the base of the post via a touch from Eduardo Lobos.
Española’s response came first through Emiliano Vecchio and then Patricio Rubio, both players’ attempts narrowly rolling past the post.
It was in the second half when the contest livened up as Colzera forced the opening of the scoring. Again driving inside onto his left foot, his sot was tipped onto the bar by Lobos only for the ball to come back down off the bar, hit Lobos and crawl over the line.
Española continued to play their passing game, making the pitch as wide as possible. Braulio Leal switched play where Emiliano Vecchio powered with the ball on the overlap; his cross caused a spate of pinball, the ball eventually falling to Rubio to bundle into the net.
La Furia Roja was ahead seven minutes later through Gonzalo Barriga. He had already seen Agustín Parra clear an earlier effort off the line but was not to be denied the second time around. The ball was once again worked well across the pitch to Vecchio, this time on the left. He held the ball up for Nicolas Berardo on the overlap to cross and Barriga was there with the finish.
Wanderers were on the back foot throughout the match. There game plan was clear, play into the front two of Pablo Calandria and Salmeron with the two wingers, Colzera and Rodrigo Toloza, cutting in to support. In the main Rafael Olarra and 20-year-old Matías Navarrete stood up to the challenge. But no one expected the equaliser to arrive in the fashion or from the boot it did.
Right-back Franz Schulz had stridden forward and, having received the ball on the edge of the area, found the top corner with a ‘puntete’, or toe-poke. Out of nothing Wanderers had equalised and hung on to a point that looked unlikely once Española had scored their equaliser. They even survived a late scare when Olarra’s header was tipped away by Mauricio Viana.
Palestino 2-1 O’Higgins
Palestino reached the summit of the Clausura on Saturday evening with a smash-and-grab three points at home to O’Higgins; Diego Chaves the star of the show.
O’Higgins went into the match with one aim: get into the play-off places. It was a tough ask against an in-form Palestino side but Eduardo Berizzo’s men passed and moved, pressed and harried, putting the home side into a spin.
The forward four of Richard Blanco, Boris Sagredo, Luis Pedro Figueroa and string-puller Ramón Fernández swapped position with ease, moving the ball laterally and vertically, not allowing Palestino a look-in.
Ably supported by the forward runs of Ricardo Rojas and Yerson Opazo – a recent call-up to the Chile national side – O’Higgins went in front after a flowing move involving Figueroa and Rojas. Figueroa, who started on the right, appeared on the left to play in Rojas, bursting forward from midfield on the overlap. Rojas’ cross was met by Sagredo at the back post; the tricky forward cushioning a volley into the bottom corner.
The game should have been put to bed before half-time as the pressure increased on Palestino’s overworked backline; Rodrigo Riquelme stopping Blanco’s shot with his arm as he slid in to block. However Blanco failed to convert from 12 yards, his fierce strike missing the goal completely.
Palestino had offered little in the way of an attacking threat in the opening 45 minutes. The usually lively Robert Flores was starved of possession so it was left to the quick feet, mobility and strength of Diego Chaves to offer an attacking outlet. He couldn’t get the better of O’Higgins’ defence in the first half, but that would soon change with the start of the second.
Mere seconds into the half and Chaves, out of nowhere, had equalised with a sumptuous strike from the edge of the area. Having rode one challenge the O’Higgins defence backed off allowing Chaves time to curl his shot into the top corner.
But the goal only stung O’Higgins into more possession and territorial advantage, but despite the creativity they possess in their ranks there weren’t the chances you’d expect them to create; Ramon Fernández seeing a shot from range ping back off the bar.
It was left to a fantastic piece of improvisation from Chaves to win the points for El Tricolor. A deep cross was headed back into the middle of the penalty box but the crowd of bodies could only look on in awe as Chaves through himself backwards for the perfect overhead kick.
Colo Colo 2-2 Rangers
It was a bad Sunday evening for Colo Colo as not only did they let their recent clean sheet record – which stood at seven hours – slip but their winning streak of five games came to an end. And to make matters worse they saw Universidad de Chile jump above them in the Clausura.
Colo Colo meant business from the start with their attacking formation that bordered on 2-4-4 as the team pressed and harried all over the pitch, the two advanced wingers becoming auxiliary strikers, moving freely in the final third while the full-backs pushed up the pitch to keep Rangers penned in. And in the middle of the park Rodrigo Millar and Fernando De la Fuente were showing signs of a blossoming partnership, working in tandem to support before defence and attack.
Yet, Rangers scored after 33 minutes. Juan Silva, venturing out the right from his position behind the front two, fizzed a cross that found top goal scorer Milton Caraglio at the edge of the box. The sturdy striker took a touch away from goal, but on realising he wasn’t being closed down turned and unleashed a ferocious drive into the bottom corner.
The lead would last barely three minutes as José Pedro Fuenzalida finished a move that heavily involved Mauro Olivi. In for the injured Gonzalo Fierro, Olivi, after seeing his cut-back from the by-line partially cleared, found the left-back Fuenzalida who bundled his way through the Rangers defence, carrying on his run to meet Rodrigo Millar’s slotted through ball to clip it over an irate Nicolás Peric. The Rangers and Chile goalkeeper incandescent with rage, believing the ball had gone out when Olivi was at the by-line.
It took only two second half minutes for Colo Colo to take the lead, Olivi again the architect. His corner from the left was flicked goal wards but cleared from the line, but only back to him on the edge of the box. He then clipped in a delightful cross to the back post where the predatory Carlos Muñoz had a free header from inside the six yard box to record his 9th goal of the Clausura.
That was enough for Colo Colo to sit deeper and look to control the game through positioning and possession rather than pressing Rangers in their own half. Yet they still looked more dangerous than the away side, Mathias Vidangossy having two solid claims for a penalty waved away while last-ditch defending prevented them adding a crucial third.
Just when it looked like Caraglio’s instinctive overhead kick, saved by Prieto, would be Rangers’ last chance to slavage a result Colo Colo’s defence hit the snooze button and gave up their winning run. Silva was played in behind Fuenzalida, who made a despairing attempt to cut off the pass, reaching the by-line where he clipped a ball through the ‘corridor of uncertainty’ to the back post where substitute Mauricio Gomez snuck in behind Ormeño and headed in to make it 2-2.
Universidad de Chile recorded their first win in eight outings, but had to come from behind to do so. Antofagasta’s Javier Elizondo knocked the opener into the empty net after Jhonny Herrera had saved from Elizondo’s strike partner, Daniel Arismendi. But then Los Azules took control with a double from Matías Rodríguez before the first 45 minutes were over; Rodríguez promising the El Chuncho faithful that he’ll rediscover his form.
There was another double scored in the second half as Sebastián Ubilla scored his first two goals of the Clausura, the second in particular was something special – finding the top corner as the ball bounced kindly at the edge of the box. Luis Valenzuela scored a consolation 12 minutes from time.
Due to injuries there was a place in the starting eleven for another youngster from the fabled La U youth system, 18-year-old Argentine Juan Ignacio Duma. Stationed on the left of the front three he showed little fear expressing himself and taking on more experienced opposition; winning the penalty for the first goal and having a hand in the second. Keep an eye out.
Along with Santiago Wanderers, Universidad de Concepción and Unión La Calera are the only team with a solitary win so far in the Clausura. Concepción fell to a 2-0 away defeat to Huachipato who in turn move into the play-off places.
La Calera faired slightly better, drawing 1-1 at home to 4th placed Deportes Iquique; Cristián Bogado equalising for Iquique with ten minutes remaining, cancelling out Nicolas Ortiz’s early opener. La Calera have now drawn their last six league games.
Universidad Católica got back to winning ways in the league against struggling Deportes La Serena. Sixto Peralta and Federico Falcone traded goals to leave the game level at half-time. It was left to young striker Nicolás Castillo to come off the bench and score a double to secure the three points which strengthens Cato’s position in the play-offs. La Serena remains in danger at the bottom of the Annual table.
On Sunday football fans across the world were treated to a number of derbies, rivalries and ‘cláscios’ in various European leagues. But in Chile they had their own derby, the ‘Clásico del Cobre’ (Copper Derby) between Cobreloa and Cobresal; both teams hailing from the Atacama region of the country.
Unlike the close games in Marseille, Barcelona, Milan and Liège it turned out to be a one-sided affair. Cobreloa ran out 3-0 winners in Calama, taking Javier Torrente’s side above Cobresal into 8th place and the last play-off spot.
The games didn’t finish on Sunday however; there was Monday night football in Chile as Unión San Felipe slumped to the bottom of the Annual table after letting a 1-0 half-time lead slip at home to Audax Italiano. A double from Sebastián Saez and one from Sebastián Silva have Los Tanos three much needed points to give them some breathing space above the relegation zone.
The Clausura and Annual table can be viewed here.
The weekend’s goal can be seen here.