Jorge Ormeno celebrates scoring Santiago Wanderers’ winner (img: charlatecnica.cl)
Week 15 took on an unusual look due to local elections in Chile, meaning no games on Sunday. So instead we had games spread over four three days; Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Monday (I’ll get to that at the end). However it did not detract from the importance of the third last round of fixtures with relegation, relegation play-off and play-off places all still up in the air; a feature of the Primera División, with only 17 games in each tournament the league table always remains close.
There were a number of surprises as the top three were all defeated, including Colo Colo, allowing Palestino to nip in and overtake the aforementioned Colo Colo, Deportes Iquique and Rangers to the top of the table.
In the middle of the Clausura, in the scrap for a play-off place, little changed in the way of position but in terms of closeness the competition for places is at boiling point with nine teams separated by four points with three places realistically up for grabs.
At the bottom it is tight but with only five teams realistically involved; four points separating the five teams.
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’s Felipe Flores battles with Carlos Lopez
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.
Munoz continued his fine goal scoring form (not a picture from Sunday)
Any passer-by, with a semblance of world football knowledge, looking at the Clausura table would be surprised to see the traditional trio of Chilean giants placed 4th, 5th and 6th.
And as the old adage goes ‘the league table never lies’; in first place we have Deportes Iquique, followed by Rangers and then Palestino. Collectively they have won 21 games of the 36 they’ve played in the Clausura compared to the 17 victories Colo Colo, Universidad Católica and Universidad de Chile have amassed in the same number of games.
But they will have to continue their fine form to hold off the challenge of Colo Colo who currently rampant as they look to Continental competition for the first time in two years.
Down at the bottom the fight continues to avoid the bottom four places in the annual table; bottom two are automatically relegated while 3rd and 4th bottom contest a play-off with sides from the Primera B.
However on paper there was only one contender for game of the week, the Clausura’s first el clásico as Universidad Católica entertained Colo Colo at the Estadio San Carlos. And that is the focus of this week’s round-up:
The Red One finally returns after a six week hiatus. And what a weekend to return to!
Flores celebrates his goal
There were goals aplenty on Friday, Saturday and Sunday; two 2-2s, a 3-2 and a 4-3 as only two of the 18 teams failed to score.
Deportes Iquique made it six wins from six to lead the Clausura ahead of Rangers and Universidad de Chile – both teams recovering from two goals down to record draws late on.
The Sunday game between Cobreloa and Universidad Católica can only be described as manic with the return of horrendous defending led by Enzo Andía. Cato faces an in-form Colo Colo this weekend in the first clásico of the Clausura. Los Albos swept past Unión Española in the final game of week 11.
South America is a haven for football scouts from all across Europe and further afield. Cast your gaze across European football’s landscape and most clubs posses a South American playing a prominent role in their team. Barcelona and Lionel Messi, Manchester City and Sergio Agüero, Napoli and Edison Cavani AC Milan and Thiago Silva to name but a few.
And one South American nation, more than most, are making extra room for scouts as interest in their players increase. But it is not the traditional giants of Brazil and Argentina or even Uruguay who have achieved so much with such a sparse population. It is Chile. The land of Marcelo Salas and Ivan Zamarano, the Andes and Atacama, Colo Colo and Universidad de Chile.
It is a breeding ground of talented – and temperamental – footballers. The success of the Chilean national team in the last few years and more recently Universidad de Chile has brought attention to the world’s longest country. And within it there are a number of talented footballers waiting to break-out and join Mauricio Isla, Mauricio Pinilla, Alexis Sánchez, Arturo Vidal, Jean Beausejour, Sebastián Pinto and more in the epicentre of football.
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.
Can Perez guide Colo Colo to the last-8? (image: ferplei.com)
It doesn’t feel that long ago I was penning the Apertura preview on the back of a wonderful year for Universidad de Chile and Chileans in general, at home and abroad. Sixteen match-days later and we find ourselves looking towards week 17; after which the play-offs between the top eight sides commence.
Of the eight play-off spots available five have been confirmed – Universidad de Chile, O’Higgins, Deportes Iquique, Universidad Católica and Unión Española – before the ‘regular’ season concludes. The remaining three spots are currently being occupied by Cobreloa, Huachipato and Colo Colo. However Unión La Calera, Santiago Wanderers, Universidad de Concepción and Audax Italiano can all, however unlikely, claim a place that will extend their season by at least two games.
Out of the seven teams who cling to the hope of prolonging their season some have been in and around the upper echelons of the Primera Divisón all year, others have drifted in and out of a play-off place, Concepción have crept into the fold unnoticed while a couple looked to have little chance four weeks ago.
Universidad de Concepcion v O'Higgins (image: purofutbol.cl)
Universidad de Chile followed up their midweek win against Cobreloa with a 3-1 triumph against Cobresal to join O’Higgins at the summit of the Apertura. The Rancagua outfit have been going strong under new manager Eduardo Berizzo, unbeaten in four to place ahead of La U on goal difference with 13 points each.
Colo Colo continued their miserly form in front of goal escaping from Valparaíso with a point after Santiago Wanderers missed two penalties. There were wins for Santiago rivals Unión Española and Universidad Católica who consolidate their positions in the play-offs.
Audax Italiano finally broke their duck away at Deportes Iquique with a 2-1 win, leaving Cobresal as the only side yet to collect a first win of the season which cost Luis Musrri his job.
The tumultuous start to the Chilean Apertura continued as four teams picked up their first win of the season, Universidad de Chile suffered a heavy defeat in Rancagua, Colo Colo were booed off again and TRO keeps getting things wrong.
However a win still eludes Audax Italiano (and Cobresal) despite remaining highly watch-able. This time they were out-done by a Daniel Carreno’s Palestino who have been unlikely to have to wait until the fifth week to collect their first win. But from the game question marks still persist over the way Omar Labruna sets up his Audax side.
Elsewhere it was Cobreloa’s turn to occupy top spot after a comprehensive 3-0 success away at Rangers. Their sheer consistency has been enough to put them above everyone else, despite having played one game less.