Herrera celebrates Espanola's second (image: charlatecnica.cl)
Unión Española put an end to an 18-year maleficio (curse) by reaching the last-16 of the Copa Libertadores last night with a 2-1 win at home to Bolívar.
Española went into the game at the Estadio Santa Laura knowing they would progress from the group stage for the first time since 1994 with a game to spare if they collected all three points. And thanks to goals from Braulío Leal and Emmanuel Herrera they done exactly that; surprising many simply by qualifying.
The Bolivians started well as they disrupted the rhythm of La Furia Roja but they could not keep the Chileans at bay for too long, Leal, unmarked, flicking in a corner, which in itself was flicked on at the front post by Jorge Ampuero, from inside the six-yard box in the 18th minute.
Henriquez celebrates the winner (image: taringa.net)
Universidad de Chile became one of the first teams to confirm their place in the last-16 of the Copa Libertadores with a fine away performance in Mendoza, completing a double over Argentine’s Godoy Cruz.
Chances came thick and fast in the first 45 minutes, which had to be extended to 56 due to floodlight failure mid-way through the half, but it was Ángelo Henríquez’s strike that was the difference. Despite their precarious position in the group Godoy Cruz struggled to threaten La U’s three-man backline often in what was a solid rearguard action, minus one or two blemishes, notably from the long ball.
Nery Pumpido, Godoy’s coach, switched to a back three in a 3-4-1-2 from their usual 4-4-2 used in the first leg. However the back three played more like a back five with the wing-backs being forced deep by La U’s; Matías Rodríguez and Eugenio Mena forceful and aggressive in their wing-play as the Chileans fluid 3-4-3 dominated the game.
Like Universidad de Chile the previous evening Universidad Católica left it late to clinch all three points against Chilean rivals Unión Española in what was a crucial win in their attempts at progression from Group 3 of the Copa Libertadores.
Substitute Daúd Gazale picked the perfect moment to score his first goal of the year, just when it looked like Española had done enough to secure a point that would have left Cató with an arduous task to recover in the last two group games.
The first half was a tepid affair played at a slow tempo; brightened temporarily by Roberto Ovelar’s 8th minute opener.
Felipe Gutiérrez picked up possession in acres of space in an inside left position half-way inside the away side’s half. Rather than driving into space he clipped a delicious ball across the box which was met by an even better diving header by Ovelar, steaming in between Fernando Cordero and Ampuero.
Union Espanola and Universidad de Chile; the two sides best placed to qualify (image: furiaroja.cl)
As the Chilean clubs prepare to return to Copa Libertadores action after a two week hiatus it seems a good time to assess the trio’s performances at the midway point of the competition’s group stage.
Universidad de Chile came into the tournament as one of the favourites following their Copa Sudamericana win last year despite losing the effervescent talents of Eduardo Vargas, the goals of the Gustavo’s, Canales and Vargas, and the experience of centre back Marcos González. Placed in a tough group they have performed admirably as they strive for the fluidity in of 2011.
Universidad Católica have been the polar opposite of their domestic form. They have struggled for consistent results, drawing all three of their group games has left them in an awkward position having already played two away games in a competition notorious for its laborious away trips.
In the same group, Unión Española have been one of the surprise packages of the tournament so far, wracking up two wins and a draw after negotiating a difficult first round play-off against Mexican side Tigre. With Mauro Díaz and Emmanuel Herrera impressing they are, surprisingly, best placed of the three teams to qualify.
Loss, win, draw. Not the start to the Copa Libertadores campaign Universidad de Chile expected but in a tough group and with two away games out of the way after yesterday evening’s 1-1 draw in Uruguay with Peñarol La U are in a position of strength to reach the knock-out stages.
However Jorge Sampaoli felt that their position could have been even stronger if they made the most of their pressure in the second half. The home side may have felt slightly aggrieved at going into the break level as Junior Fernándes cancelled out Nicolás Freitas’ opener. Peñarol had visibly upset El Chuncho’s rhythm in the first half, penning the Chileans midfield in their own half and causing the backline an abundance of problems with their direct play in to ex-Juventus striker Marcelo Zalayeta. Sampaoli changed the flow of the game with the introduction of Gustavo Lorenzetti at half-time and Universidad de Chile looked the more likely team to collect all three points.
UC look on as they throw away a two goal lead (image: futbolred.com)
Universidad Católica failed to make it a clean sweep for Chilean sides in the Copa Libertadores this week, throwing away a two goal lead at home to Colombian’s Junior de Barranquilla.
Having seen Unión Española and Universidad de Chile chalk up excellent wins – against Bolívar and Godoy Cruz respectively – UC had the chance to make it a treble of wins which would have taken them on to four points and comfortbaly behind Española in Group 3. Despite an excellent start Cató faltered in the second half and could only claim a 2-2 in the end.
With an abundance of attacking quality in tow UC took the lead in the 19th minute. A low free-kick out on the left from Nicolás Trecco caused panic in the away defence and as the ball bobbled around Roberto Gutiérrez was quickest to react finishing from seven yards.