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After Emiliano Astorga presented his resignation, the leaders of Unión La Calera required long meetings to finally decide on Raúl Toro as the new coach of the “cementeros”. He signed for a year along with César Contreras, the physical trainer, but before picking him there were negotiations with sacked Colo Colo coach Ivo Basay as well as José Basualdo.
Toro once wore the club uniform when he played in it on 1981 so he considers this to be a good opportunity and a nice reunion with his old team. He knows some of the players and what they have accomplished but since they have made it to the playoffs the only thing to do now is keep on going.
Besides, after the departure of the Argentinian attackers Lucas Simón and Ariel Cólzera, the new coach said he had to look for a midfielder and one or two attackers. One possible prospect for the midfielder position next semester is Sebastián González, from San Lorenzo de Almagro, Argentina.
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.
The closing stages of the Primera División are well and truly underway as four teams were eliminated over the weekend, setting up a Clásico Universitario semi-final and potential ‘El Clásico’ final, while Cobreloa – the only non-Santiago team in the last four – will be happy to just be there after an almighty scare at home to Unión La Calera, leaving it late to confirm their place.
Universidad de Chile won. Again. Colo Colo took care of an elementary second-leg and Audax Italiano floundered when it mattered.
In an explosive opening to the Clausura play-offs three of the four games went the way of the positional seeding with three away wins. The only home win coming from Universidad Católica who, despite finishing below Audax Italiano, were arguably favourites to win through to the semi-finals. It is looking likely that three of the four semi-final places will be taken by the three Santiago Giants.
Saturday saw a glut of goals as 12 were scored in the two games while on Sunday the two encounters were tight and tentative, both away teams winning a goal to nil.
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.