Seasons were saved and jobs hung in the balance as the final week of the Clausura reached its conclusion before the play-offs commence. For eight teams the chance of glory continues; for two a chance of redemption; for the bottom two, Primera B hell.
To highlight the competitiveness of the short tournaments in Chile the majority of the clubs had something to play for; everything from play-off placing to relegation survival. And due to the rearranged Universidad de Chile-Universidad de Concepción the tension was creaked up another notch as five games took place at the weekend and a further five on Wednesday. If Sky was broadcasting the last five games it would have been ‘Wild Wednesday’ or some other nonsense.
Arica, a city in the far north of Chile has had a twenty-seven year wait for its football club to win promotion back to the top flight of Chilean football. I have followed San Marcos de Arica since moving here in April 2011 by attending nearly every home match in that time. Under the scorching hot midday sun on Sunday 4th November 2012 San Marcos ended their barren spell. Below is Adam Brandon‘s personal account of how the final day unfolded.
The 0-0 isn’t the most popular score line in Chile’s Primera División, but thanks to some wonderful goalkeeping from Paulo Garcés and Cristopher Toselli, coupled with poor finishing the ‘Clásicoo Universitario’ between Universidad de Chile and Universidad Católica served up a goal less draw. The result leaves Católica seeking qualification to the play-offs going into the final week.
The game can be filed into the ‘exciting 0-0’ category as two sides with contrasting styles of play came together at a sun-baked Estadio Nacional; proactive v reactive. La U looked to pass their way through UC with invention and speed and Los Cruzados settled for a direct approach on the counter-attack.
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.
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.
Once again there wasn’t a full card of games in the Chile Primera División with Universidad de Chile travelling back from their Suruga Bank Championship disappointment.
So for the third time in five rounds it was left to the others to stake a claim as ‘likely challengers’ to La U’s dominance. And once again Colo Colo and Universidad Católica were nowhere to be seen, both struggling to draws.
Rangers on the other hand opened up a two point gap at the top with a win at Cobreloa. Audax Italiano and Cobresal failed to win but will be happy with draws away to Palestino and Unión La Calera.
Deportes Iquique’s strange behaviour continued as they fell to another heavy defeat while miracles do exist after all. Unión San Felipe won. Although in Valparaíso they are more sceptical after Santiago Wanderers didn’t.