Universidad de Chile v Godoy Cruz. Chile v Argentina. The match, in some quarters, was being billed as the first-leg of the ‘play-off’ for second place in Group 8 of the Copa Libertadores. With Atlético Nacional running riot in Uruguay against Peñarol the previous evening – taking their points tally to six out of six – the Colombian’s look certainties to qualify for the knock-out stages, especially with the telepathic understanding between Macnelly Torres and Dorlan Pabón.
In week one Nacional dispatched of Universidad de Chile who, missing Matías Rodríguez, fielded a lop-sided 3-4-1-2. Wednesday evening’s game saw the Argentine wing-back return to the side allowing Sampaoli to revert to a balanced 3-4-1-2 system which the squad are comfortable and accustomed to. Albert Acevedo has replaced Marcos González as the middle of the three centre-backs after the latter’s move to Flamengo. With Raúl Ruidíaz injured Junior Fernándes filled the role of Eduardo Vargas on the right of the attack but with freedom to migrate to other positions when necessary.
Other than the reinstatement of Rodríguez the most important decision was the positioning of Gustavo Lorenzetti. Similar to the role he played against Flamengo when La U won 4-0 in Brazil he started behind Castro and Fernándes. In essence Los Azules were playing without an out-and-out striker, and it suited them.
Nery Pumpido lined up Godoy Cruz Antonio Tomba – to give them their full name – in a 4-4-2. The Argentine Dirk Kuyt (more on that soon) Facundo Castillón and Rubén Ramírez led the line with Diego Villar stationed on the right.
Similar to the majority of Copa Libertadores results this week there were plenty of goals with one team, if you use the score line as a bearing, emphatically coming out on top. Although it did not look like going that way to begin with, La U found their ‘Copa Sudamericana rhythm and rhyme’, turned the screw and exploited the Argentine’s high-line and their almost non-existent pressure on the ball; a paradise for an enganche like Lorenzetti.
Herrera celebrates putting Española ahead (image: mediotiempo.com)
Unión Española put back-to-back league defeats behind them to defy pre-match expectations and win at altitude in La Paz against Bolívar.
Trailing 1-0 inside the opening minute, La Furia Roja looked to be heading for a third straight defeat, but after surviving a number of first half scares the Chileans responded with three second half goals to record their second win of the Copa Libertadores; putting them top of group 3.
Española barely had time to settle when the Bolivians ran through their midfield to set up a cross from the left. The cross was not defended by José Luis Sierra’s side and Edhemir Rodríguez nipped in-front of his marker and saw his flicked shot come back of the post but he was the quickest to react to the rebound and made sure from a few centimetres out.
Díaz playing for River Plate (image: granadeportivo.blogspot.com)
1. Signing of the season?
I know there have only been two games played, heck Universidad de Chile and Cobreloa have only played one, but Unión Española are looking mightily impressive. Add in their first round Copa Libertadores matches and they couldn’t have started the season much better. At the heart of their good play has been River Plate loanee Mauro Díaz. Stationed on the left of the midfield three he has personified La Furia Roja’s expansive and high-paced play.
The Santa Laura side attempt to use every inch of the pitch to stretch the opposition. The full-backs are pushed high and wide while the wide forwards in the 4-3-3 play as inverted wingers but look to hug the touchline opening gaps in defences before coming in to combine with the midfield and striker Emmanuel Herrera (or Sebastián Jaime).
Díaz, part of the fluid midfield three, is industrious, energetic, tenacious but uses the ball intelligently, belying his 20 years of age. He is giving allowances to join in attacks but also provide coverage to a defence that has its pressure points especially with no natural holding midfielder (Braulio Leal is the closest to playing that role).
Jean Paul Pineda and Sebastián Saavedra also deserve a mention. Pineda has consistently troubled full backs with his pace and trickery so far while Saavedra looks to be another promising and gifted attacker.
It was Universidad de Chile last year, Deportes Iquique last week but now it’s the turn of Unión Española and Mauro Díaz to entertain.
Chile followed suit of their previous pair of qualifying matches, recovering from a thumping away loss to win by a two goal margin in Santiago. However last nights match was unlike the previous home win against Peru, the game following a simple pattern; attack (Chile) v defence (Paraguay) in the first 45 minutes, Chile score with one of the few first half chances, Paraguay open up in the second half and put Chile under pressure, Chile seal win with a late counter-attacking goal.
The game saw little incident and one can only imagine Claudio ‘Bichi’ Borghi was ecstatic that was the case, La Roja keeping their first clean-sheet in eight games.
Two changes were made from the 4-0 hammering at the hands of Uruguay on Friday as Marcelo Díaz and Matías Campos Toro made way for Charles Aránguiz and the return of Alexis Sánchez. There was also an alteration in formation, 3-4-1-2 became 3-3-1-3. Sánchez and Eduardo Vargas were stationed wide of Humberto Suazo while Aránguiz played narrow on the left-hand side of midfield.
As for Paraguay they set up in a defensive 4-4-1-1 formation, making four changes from Friday’s 2-1 home win over Ecuador – Paulo da Silva, Victor Cáceres, Richard Ortiz and Lucas Barrios were replaced by Julio Manzur, Miguel Samudio, Sergio Aqunio and Julio Dos Santos. Rubin Kazan’s Nelson Haedo Valdez played the lone striker role, tasked with keeping Chile’s three centre-backs busy. He was supported by the deeper Dos Santos and Marcelo Estigarribia who was given allowance to venture forward from the left, but the team’s main task was out of possession to sit deep and get men behind the ball.
Week nine of the Chilean Clausura provided an average of three goals a game over the weekend as Universidad de Chile continued their dominance at the top of the league creating histroy by becoming the first side in Chilean domestic football to win nine consecutive matches. There was also big news at the bottom as Santiago Morning upset the odds with a 3-2 defeat of Universidad de Catolica to rise from bottom of the 18 team league to 13th in one fell swoop.
La U ran out comfortable winners in the last game of the weekend, defeating O’Higgins 3-0 at the Estadio Nacional Julio Martinez Prádanos. You can read about the match report from the history making match here.
Santiago Morning must have feared the worst when Matias Mier put Catolica ahead after eight minutes but the home side responded in emphatic fashion by not only drawing level, but taking the lead before half-time. Catolica levelled but immediately lost scorer of the first goal Mier who turned villain collecting his second booking of the encounter. Morning won in dramatic fashion with a penalty, converted by Ever Cantero, three minutes from time.
Alexis Sanchez was, as expected, the biggest omission from the Chilean national side as Claudio Borghi announced his squad for the first World Cup 2014 qualification double header.
The Barcelona forward was ruled out with a torn hamstring after suffering the injury in Barcelona’s 2-2 with Real Sociedad, ruling him out for eight weeks. He now misses the games against rivals Argentina on Friday October 7 and Peru on Tuesday October 11.