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.
It was a busy evening for Chilean clubs spread across three competitions last night. Universidad de Chile returned to domestic business, the Copa Chile group stage got under way with eight matches and O’Higgins went to Paraguay looking for progression to the second round of the Copa Sudamericana.
It turned into an interesting evening with La U and Palestino sharing five goals, four Primera División teams losing to lower league opposition and O’Higgins well beaten.
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.
Goals were more forthcoming in week 2 as Clausura finalists Universidad de Chile and Cobreloa kicked off their Apertura seasons with wins. But both are left looking upwards at Unión Española who continue their thrilling start to the season. A fine individual performance from Mauro Díaz was part of a fabulous team performance as they pummelled Cobresal.
La U struggled to break down La Serena on Saturday evening until the introduction of new boy Raúl Ruidíaz at half-time. Colo Colo also collected their first win of the season while Universidad Católica endure their poor away form which blighted their Clausura campaign.
Santiago Wanderers, Palestino, Audax Italiano and Antofagasta all got of the mark.
With the Clausura’s top two – Universidad de Chile and Cobreloa – not in action there was a chance for one of the contenders to lay down an early marker as Santiago inhabitants looked to escape the baking heat which had swept the capital.
However Colo Colo were booed off at home to Deportes Iquique – who had new signing Edson Puch impressing on his debut – while Universidad Católica recovered from an insipid first half performance to collect three points. There was better news for Union Española who added to their first round first-leg Coap Libertadores win with maximum points.
The two promoted teams enjoyed mix fortunes back in the Primera.
Santiago Morning's (right) four-year Primera spell over (IMG: ANFP)
Two Championship play-off places, two relegation play-off places and one automatic relegation place were ‘up for grabs’ at the weekend. Nine teams were involved meaning six games kicked off simultaneously. The permutations seemed endless. The hope, the fear, the excitement and the despair.
The 90 minutes of football had it all as 23 goals were exchanged in the six games.
Could Santiago Morning stave off relegation and do the unthinkable and reach the Clausura play-offs? Could Unión Española blow their place in the Clausura play-offs? Could Unión San Felipe win for the frost time in eight matches to rise out of danger?
All will be answered . . . (and there’ll even be mention of Universidad de Chile reaching a remarkable landmark without any of their heavy –hitters)
Nublense (red and white) head for the Primera Division exit door (IMG: ANFP)
And then there was one. One week to save their season. One week to define their season. One week to prolong their season, for better or worse. Not for Ñublense however. Their time was up when Octavo Pozo scored a late third goal for Unión La Calera to secure a 3-1 win, consigning Ñublense to Primera B next year.
But Unión Española, Cobresal, Unión La Calera, Santiago Wanderers, Santiago Morning, Deportes Iquique, Universidad de Concepción, Unión San Felipe and Huachipato all face a Sunday showdown to reach the Clausura Championship play-offs, avoid the dreaded relegation play-offs or stave off relegation. Or in some cases all three!
Unión Espanola will confirm their Clausura play-off place with a win at Universidad de Concepción who will then have to rely on results elsewhere to survive in the Primera Division. Cobresal will avoid relegation and confirm a Championship play-off place by picking up three points at home to Santiago Morning who would then be relegated. A Santiago Morning win – they have to win to have any chance of surviving – would see them leapfrog Cobresal in both the General and Clausura table, into a possible Championship play-off place. But again they would have to rely on results elsewhere. For example . . . actually there are far too many permutations to even consider. It would take Sheldon Cooper, a blackboard and his lunatic genius to work out.
Fernando Solis (left) in the thick of the action for Santiago Morning (IMG - ANFP)
The English Premier League has been in the news of late for the frequency in which goals have been scored; defences conspicuous by their absence as Robin Van Persie, David Silva, Edin Dzeko et al take advantage. Similarly, in Chile goals are flowing on a regular occurrence; forwards coming out on top as teams see attack as the best strategy to propel them into the play-offs or escape the dreaded relegation zone and play-offs. And week 15 was no different.
The only constant factor in both the Clausura and General tables is table topping Universidad de Chile, winners once again, as the rest continue to trade places, making it muy difícil (very difficult) for anyone to predict the final league placings. Analysing week 15 we can establish that Universidad Católica will join rivals Universidad de Chile in next years Copa Liberatadores while Cobreloa, Audax Italiano and Colo-Colo – despite defeat – will take part in the end of season play-offs. They are likely to be joined by Deportes La Serena and Católica – should be confirmed after the next round of matches – but six points separates Santiago Morning, who currently occupy the final play-off spot, and Palestino in 17th. Santiago Moring are still in relegation trouble also; the race to avoid the drop or the relegation play-offs equally tight, six points between the bottom eight in the General table.