Without trying to upset fans of other teams there was only one game that stood out this weekend in the Clausura: El Superclásico. Colo Colo v Universidad de Chile.
The previous three games had finished with an aggregate of 9-2 in La U’s favour but as Colo Colo’s Felipe Flores point out their rivals have regressed since winning the Copa Sudamericana and reaching the Copa Libertadores semi-finals whilst Los Albos have improved immeasurably under Omar Labruna; unbeaten in 10 leagues games going into the game.
There was also the small matter of Universidad de Chile’s wretched record at the Estadio Monumental having not won in over 11 years.
In terms of quality it shaped up to be the tightest match between the two sides in 18 months or so.
What transpired didn’t surprise many with incidents, controversies, red cards, missed chances but not as many goals as one would come to have expected. And La U still can’t win in Macul . . .
Colo Colo had their strongest eleven available so lined up their normal 4-4-2. Mathias Vidangossy is a number 10 playing on the left so naturally drifts infield to link with the lively duo of Felipe Flores and Carlos Muñoz. Gonzalo Fierro provides balance and energy on the right wing.
Universidad de Chile has had injury problems throughout the Clausura with new signings Waldo Ponce and Luciano Civelli struggling for fitness. But in terms of recent line-ups they were only missing the suspended Matías Rodríguez which meant a slight change of shape. José Rojas and Osvaldo González played as centre-backs with Albert Acevedo and Eugenio Mena pushed further up in the full-back position, venturing into wing-back territory when Sebastián Martínez dropped back between the centre backs from his midfield position.
Counter-attack v Possession
Despite being at home and their fine recent form Colo Colo took up a reactive stance playing on the counter-attack as Universidad de Chile controlled possession; the game played at a break-neck speed.
Eugenio Mena set the tone for the opening half hour, marauding into the box and firing a cross-shot just wide of the far post.
As I briefly mentioned above La U were varying between a back four and back three; very similar to the way Barcelona played under Pep Guardiola. Martínez, the deepest of the midfield three, dropping in between Rojas and González which freed Mena to push high up on the left to combine with Gustavo Lorenzetti who, as a natural enganche, moves infield; a feature La U’s play in the Clausura and Copa Sudamericana.
On the right-hand side Albert Acevedo was more conservative, wary of the threat of Juan Guillermo Domínguez who has a partnership with Mathias Vidangossy similar to that of Mena and Lorenzetti. But with La U’s pressure the Colombian international was forced back, especially with Sebastián Ubilla playing from the right.
La U squeezed the game with the back three playing a high line which caught the eager Felipe Flores and Carlos Muñoz offside a few times.
Even though they were under significant pressure the combination of Rodrigo Millar and Fernando De la Fuente still left space behind them and in front of the centre backs. This was ideal for Lorenzetti who was able to drift into these spaces unmarked. Álvaro Ormeño, who was lucky to still be on the pitch after punching Ubilla, was ignored the temptation to follow Lorenzetti inside while the centre-backs, Luis Mena and Cristian Vilches, were concerned with Enzo Gutiérrez. Lorenzetti went agonizingly close with a shot that went inches past the post after collecting, turning and shooting on the edge of the box.
Normally one of Los Azules’ most reliable players, Eugenio Mena was given his second yellow card just after the half hour mark changing the nature of the game – in terms of the red card there can be few complaints.
Sampaoli made a substitute immediately, taking off Ubilla and replacing him with Paulo Magalhaes who went to the left side to fill in where Mena was playing while Lorenzetti played more centrally behind Gutiérrez.
The red card and subsequent changes had a positive effect on Colo Colo who now had their full-backs free to support play further up the pitch. And as a direct result Los Albos should have went ahead twice before half-time as La U were clearly unsettled.
Ormeño crossing from the right and Domínguez from the left set up Muñoz for two glorious chances but he squandered both.
It was roles reversed in the second half with Colo Colo attempting to control possession while ten men La U focused their attacking efforts on the counter-attack. But unlike the first half the team on the counter-attack looked more threatening.
If there is one criticism that can be made of El Cacique, even in this excellent run of form, is that they move the ball too slowly through midfield at times. De la Fuente and Millar are good players but neither is as dynamic as Charles Aránguiz or inventive as Lorenzetti.
La U, by now in a rough 4-4-1 shape, were sharp and incisive with their passing and Lorenzetti still at the heart of most of their moves. Under Sampaoli La U will never sit in and refuse to attack; it’s their natural instinct to go forward. José Rojas moved to left-back and showed what an athlete he is despite Botafogo’s claims that he had issues with his heart after his move to Brazil broke down. Whenever he could he motored forward trying to support his attack and drive the team forward; played down the left by Lorenzetti he sent a teasing cross in which everyone watching in the stadium and at home gathered substitute Francisco Castro was just going to knock the ball home from within the six-yard box. But he contrived to miss the ball completely.
La U looked to break away with ten minutes remaining, Aránguiz collecting a pass from Lorenzetti on the half-way line out by the nearside touchline. However he was dispossessed easily by Domínguez before Mauro Olivi clipped a pass across the field to the edge of the Universidad de Chile box where Carlos Muñoz unleashed a ferocious dipping volley that looped over the diving Jhonny Herrera and came down over the line via the bar, prompting pandemonium within the Estadio Monumental.
La U tried to push for a winner but the stuffing had been knocked out of them by Muñoz’s goal and despite the goal scorers sending off for tangling with Herrera La U could not prevent Colo Colo from rising above them in the Clausura.
The final whistle brought about some unsavoury scenes as both sets of players and coaching staff clashed. Colo Colo goalkeeper Francisco Prieto gestured towards the Universidad de Chile support before making an obscene gesture to Jhonny Herrera who had confronted Prieto with an ‘aggressive’ chest bump. Pictures show Prieto challenging Herrera to a karaoke contest as Andres Solis amusingly suggested however I’ll leave it to your imagination as to what he was suggesting.
Herrera, Prieto and Gonzalo Fierro were all shown red cards after the final whistle.
Unión Española saw their play-off hopes take a severe blow away to Universidad de Concepción who in turn had their hopes of surviving relegation boosted by the 2-1 win. Despite a recent 6-1 destruction of Universidad Católica in the Copa Chile Española has been struggling for form in the Clausura. They fell behind through second half goals from Gabriel Vargas and José Luis Jimenez. Matters got worse when Emiliano Vecchio was shown a straight red card for sarcastically clapping a refereeing decision. Sebastián Jaime headed in a late consolation.
Now six without a win, Española are five points from a play-off place. Meanwhile Concepción jumped off the bottom of the Clausura and reached the dizzying heights of 14th in the annual table.
Universidad Católica cling onto their place in the play-offs after yet another poor performance, going down 2-0 to Huachipato at home. A result and performance that brought about chants against head coach Martín Lasarte.
Huachipato went ahead of Cato in the play-off places; the goals coming from form players Braian Rodríguez and Cesar Cortés.
Palestino began the weekend at the summit of the Clausura but were knocked off the top by their opponents on Saturday night, Deportes Iquique.
The sides exchanged early goals through Rodrigo Díaz and Lucas Simón and it looked like it would end that way until Victor Sarabia nicked all three points for Iquique two minutes from time.
Iquique would not have their place at the top for long as Rangers went above them on Sunday, defeating Cobresal 2-0 in what was a comfortable win in the end.
The beaten finalists in the Apertura, O’Higgins, remain in a struggle to reach the Clausura play-offs after a 1-1 draw with a Santiago Wanderers side that haven’t won in 10 games.
Ivo Basay was ‘welcomed’ back to Rancagua and his popularity status at El Teniente took another dent his Wanderers frustrated O’Higgins by drawing level midway through the second half and then holding on with 10 men at the end. The point takes Wanderers to 15th in the annual table but still in the relegation play-off places.
Antofagasta’s come from behind 2-1 win over Deportes La Serena, coupled with results elsewhere pushed Los Papayeros into the automatic relegation zone in the annual table. La Serena went ahead through Matías Córdoba but Venezuelan Daniel Arismendi equalised on the stroke of half-time before grabbing the winner in the second half for his 6th of the Clausura.
With their win on Saturday Antofagasta had risen into the last play-off place, but Cobreloa made sure Las Pumas were only occupying the place for a short period of time after they defeated manager-less Unión San Felipe. Marco Antonio Figueroa had come in to try and save San Felipe from the drop and had been making a real fist of the challenge; taking them into Clausura play-off contention. But a poor run of form and a hammering to Colo Colo in the Copa Chile resulted in Figueroa letting rip at his players before resigning.
Even with the help of an own goal by Cobreloa’s Sebastián Roco, San Felipe fell to a 2-1 defeat and to the bottom of the Annual table; two points adrift of the relegation play-off places and four from safety.
The final game of the weekend saw the third consecutive league win for Audax Italiano who had the double delight of pulling themselves to within one point of the play-offs while all but securing Primera División football for 2013. Argentine Sebastián Sáez netted his 10th goal for Audax since moving from Talleres Córdoba in the summer and David Drocco sealed the 2-1 over Unión La Calera who still has a little to do to be safe from relegation.