Santos 2-0 Universidad de Chile – Santos break the press to expose the space the behind Los Azules defence to lift the Recopa Sudamericana

Santos lifted the Recopa Sudamericana for the first time in their history after a 2-0 aggregate win over Copa Sudamericana holders Universidad de Chile. The first-leg in a wet Santiago finished 0-0 but the quality and pace of the Brazilians on the break proved too much for La U in what was an entertaining and fast-paced encounter.

Jorge Sampaoli had one player in mind when setting La U up in a 4-3-1-2 formation; Neymar. The conservative Albert Acevedo was played at right-back in a flat back four with Matías Rodríguez moved into a right of centre midfield position. In his comments to the press on the eve of the game it was clear how important Sampaoli regarded Neymar, stating that “Santos depend too much on one player (Neymar).”

Santos were sent out in a more functional 4-4-2 by coach Muricy Ramalho; Neymar given freedom to roam around Andre with Felipe Anderson and Patricio Rodriguez on the wings and Arouca and Adriano the holding pair in midfield.

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LDU Quito 0-1 Universidad de Chile: Albert Acevedo plays an important part as La U stand 90 minutes away from greatness

Ninety minutes. That is all that stands between Universidad de Chile and eternal history; their first ever Continental trophy. Before last night LDU Quito’s home record in this year’s Copa Sudamericana read: played 5, won 5, scored 10, and conceded 1. No team had an answer to Quito’s altitude and LDU’s boundless energy. Now it reads: played 6, won 5, lost 1, scored 10, and conceded 2. This Chilean side continue to astound and amaze; 32 games unbeaten while doing it in style.

In the build-up to the game I wrote a piece on the ‘five stars’ of La U’s remarkable run to the final – the first appearance in a Continental final in their history. Jhonny Herrera, José Rojas, Charles Aránguiz, Marcelo Díaz and of course Eduardo Vargas were the chosen ones. But I made a glaring error. I missed out the true ‘star’; Los Azules’ Argentine boss Jorge Sampaoli.

A Marcelo Bielsa disciple if there ever was one. La U gave him a chance when no one else would and he has delivered. And then some. With Francisco Castro struggling for full fitness in the build-up to the game Sampaoli went into experimentation mode. 4-4-2, 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 and risk Castro? Tapes would have been watched, notes would have been scribbled and the floor would have taken a pasting from his pacing. Constant pacing. It was settled, 3-5-2.

Or was it?

Albert Acevedo was in for Castro. But he didn’t slot in beside Díaz and Aránguiz. He was stationed behind them; 3-1-4-2, matching LDU’s 3-4-1-2(ish) almost man for man in midfield. What may look like a slight difference was a big difference. A crucial difference. Acevedo would have a big part to play in the game; his positioning releasing the two central midfielders in front of him and the wing-backs on either side to be more progressive and play higher up the pitch. Eduardo Vargas, best on the right with the allowance to come inside, played centrally alongside Gustavo Canales.

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Santiago Wanderers 1-1 Universidad de Chile

Picture: Marcelo Segura/Agenciauno

Nelly Furtado was right when she ‘sang’ All Good Things Come to an End. Barely three days after making history by winning nine consecutive league matches Universidad de Chile’s run had come to an end, just when it was looking like they would be unstoppable.

Travelling to joint bottom of the league Santiago Wanderers, a tenth consecutive win was almost a given. But it wasn’t to be and could have been much worse after the home side took the lead early on and then Universidad were reduced to 10 men when Marcos González was sent-off in the second half after Francisco Castro had equalised in injury time of half-time. But neither team threatened to take all three points while Santiago goal scorer Orué saw red late on.

There was only four minutes on the clock when Santiago Wanderers took the lead. A free-kick was won just inside La U’s half; Sebastián Rusculleda’s inswinging left-footed delivery caused Los Azules defence to drop deep into their box and La U midfielder Albert Acevedo glanced a header against his own post with Herrera scrambling across to keep it out. The ball fell invitingly for Ángel Orué to knock home the rebound into the empty net from inside the six yard box as Herrera lay helpless on the ground.

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