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.
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.
The last few weeks has seen me take a hiatus from the Primera División due to busy weekend schedules. But I was back watching on Sunday night as Universidad de Chile trounced hapless arch-rivals Colo Colo in el Superclásico.
So here is a run-down of what has gone on recently and how the league is shaping up with only three rounds remaining before the play-offs commence.
*Expect mentions about perfect Universidad de Chile, Matías Rodríguez, Ángelo Henríquez, el Superclásico, Eduardo Berizzo, Adrian Ramos, José Luis Sierra, Mario Lepe, rejuvenated Audax Italiano, rubbish Colo Colo, Cobreloa’s new coach, slipping Wanderers, Huachipato and those going nowehere.
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.
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.
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.
The shape of the Clausura continues to alter – with the exception of the top spot which Universidad de Chile have all but sewn up – after another tumultuous and enthralling weekend in the Chilean Primera Division.
There were 27 goals scored in the nine games which kicked off on Thursday (01:00 GMT) due to La U’s impending involvement in the Copa Sudamericana. They travel to Brazil to face Ronaldinho’s Flamengo in good spirits having secured their place in the play-offs defeating Union La Calera late on to end their run of draws and increase their lead at the top to 10 points. La Calera, like Unión Española who were beaten 2-1 by Huachipato, fell out the play-offs to be replaced by Universidad Católica (more about them soon) and Ñublense while Deportes La Serena, Audax Italiano and Cobreloa all strengthened their positions in the play-offs with wins. Palestino moved off the bottom of the Clausura table with a 3-1 win victory in Iquique and Santiago Morning hit bottom of the general table with a 1-1 draw at home to Unión San Felipe.
Huachipato came away from the Municipal de La Florida with an unexpected and deserved point as Audax Italiano failed to fully take advantage of second place Colo Colo’s slip-up away to La Serena.
Similar to the game between Unión Española and O’Higgins the previous evening the game was played at a frantic pace, helped by the artificial surface at La Florida as the ball zipped about. With both teams set up in a 3-4-1-2/3-4-3 formation and content at playing on the counter-attack with plenty of quick, sharp, vertical passes the game was primed for end to end action and it’s exactly how the first goal of the game came about.
A slip-up by Universidad de Chile on Tuesday was their first in 10 games of the Clausura. Yet it has given their fierce rivals Colo Colo the belief that they can overtake La U at the summit of the Clausura standings, leading to a more favourable draw in the play-offs.
After Thursday night’s comprhensive victory in the stand-out match of Weekday 10 against third placed Audax Italiano, Colo Colo are now six points behind the La U with seven games to go.
It is felt with Universidad de Chile still in the Copa Sudamerican where they face Brazilian side Flamengo there are more slip-ups to come.
Goals from Carlos Muñoz, Rodrigo Millar and Marco Medel eased Colo Colo to victory in what was a fast-paced match-up between two of Chile’s best sides – each finished with ten men. Audax Italiano had their chances but ultimately could not contend with the attacking quality possessed by the home side.
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.