Emanuel Herrera heir to the Giroud throne

Herrera scoring for Union Espanola.

Montpellier continued to improve their squad for the new season today with the signing of 25-year old Argentine striker Emanuel Herrera. Joining for a few reported to be around €2 to 3 million he becomes Montpellier’s fourth signing and of course takes the instant tag of Olivier Giroud’s replacement.

Herrera arrives from Chilean club Unión Española who finished 5th in the national championship and reached the Last 16 of the Copa Libertadores with the Argentine scoring five goals in South America’s premier club competition. So to get the best insight into what sort of player Montpellier were buying we went straight toChilean football expert  Joel Sked and he gave us the low-down on La Paillade’s new recruit.

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Boca Juniors 2-1 Unión Española – Extra pressure from Boca pays off in a tight game

Unión Española was five minutes from recording a famous result in one of football’s most iconic venues. With barely five minutes remaining a Santiago Silva goal for Boca Juniors to make it 2-1 edged a tight encounter in the Argentines favour.

La Furia Roja trailed at the break from a splendid Juan Román Riquelme goal but fought back in the second half, scoring a deserved equaliser but could not hold on and take the away goal back to Chile for the second leg this week coming. Although they will have to do so without Uruguayan Diego Scotti who was needlessly sent-off.

From the offset it was clear that this was going to be a high quality encounter with Española looking to play the ball quickly through midfield and into their front players while Boca naturally looked to involve Juan Román Riquelme while offering additional width through their full-backs, especially left-back Clemente Rodríguez.

Out of possession the Chileans were happy to retreat onto the half way line meaning there was little pressure on Cristian Erbes the central of the three midfielders. He would therefore look to build attacks from deep and with options further ahead limited due to Española sitting back he was forced to look for longer passes into Santiago Silva or out to the wings where either his fellow central midfielders had shuttled or one of the full-backs.

Española’s worry was when the ball was played into their half and the midfield pressed. The defence would not come with them allowing Riquelme to find ample space in front of the back four and goal side of Gonzalo Villagra. With two Boca strikers occupying the defenders no one was willing to step out and close him down. There was evidence of this after 15 minutes and on the stroke of half-time.

The first instance saw Riquelme collect possession, turn and force Eduardo Lobos into an unnecessarily acrobatic save. The second was more dangerous as he clipped a delightful ball over the defence from just outside box for Darío Cvitanich, making a run across the defence, who laid a pass into the supporting Walter Erviti and Lobos was again forced into a save.

And the only goal of the first half came about when Riquelme was left unattended outside the box. But this time it was after an 11 pass move, the last four of which were devastating. Pablo Ledesma played a sweeping cross field pass to the advancing Rodríguez. The left-back, unopposed, knocked the ball first time into Riquelme who was in acres of room at the edge of the box. As everyone shaped to shoot the genius that is Juan Román laughed at us mere mortals by firing in a disguised pass with the outside of his right boot to the feet of Cvitanich before receiving the return and with his ‘weaker’ left-foot dispatching a shot across Lobos into the bottom corner. Any replay of the goal should come with the warning ‘Genius at Work’.

While most salivate over Riquelme – and rightly so – it should be noted the part Rodríguez plays; a staple of the way Boca set out. With a narrow midfield a lot of width is provided by the full-backs and Rodríguez, like he and to a lesser extent Sosa done for most of the match, bombed forward. Dagoberto Currimilla not up against a direct opponent was dragged inside to where he expected play to take place, drawn to the blue shirts; opening up room for Rodríguez’s run which was not tracked.

However Unión Española was unfortunate to be trailing at half-time. Arguably, La Furia Roja was the better side in terms of keeping the ball and creating chances. As mentioned they would drop deeper than we usually see from José Luis Sierra’s men with the formation resembling 4-1-4-1 as the two wide forwards would play more as wide midfielders when out of possession.

But in terms of attacking it was the normal Española. Sebastián Jaime and Fernando Cordero stayed high as Emmanuel Herrera linked up play, normally combining with Mauro Díaz who was afforded a floating role moving freely about the pitch and impressing at doing so.

It was when they worked the ball quickly to the right to inverted winger Fernando Cordero. Neither the fastest nor trickiest but if given time to get the ball onto his left-foot more often than not he would deliver a fine ball. Both Emmanuel Herrera and Sebastián Jaime should have done better with freed headers in front of goal. Cordero himself went close with two curling efforts having cut in on his left.

This was when La Furia Roja were at their free-flowing best, Villagra protecting and Díaz and Braulio Leal scheming in midfield. But it was harder for the Chileans when they couldn’t get the ball forward quickly. The longer they held onto the ball Boca would sink into a 4-4-1-1, Riquelme shuttling left and Silva dropping off behind Cvitanich.

There was little to write about in terms of tactics or action in the second half until Española, out of nowhere, equalised. A harmless ball out of defence looked simple for Rolando Schiavi and Juan Insaurralde. However both were drawn to the ball and a flick from Herrera sent Jaime scampering free through the middle of the defence before a confident finish. Rodríguez was too far left to cover for his centre backs mishap.

Naturally the goal provoked Boca into pushing and pressing higher up the pitch. It seemed as if the game would be defence v attack for the last 15/20 minutes but Española were brave and José Luis Sierra brought the forward thinking and piercing winger Jean Paul Pineda on for Jaime when it may have been sensible to bring on Rodolfo Madrid.

Erviti almost grabbed a deserved goal for his all round performance with a piece of individual brilliance, dancing round a handful of challenges but seeing his shot come back of the post.

Boca turned the screw with a final substitute; Julio Falcioni replacing Erbes – whose influence had waned – with Juan Sánchez Miños. Erviti now found himself as the central midfielder with Sánchez Miños wider on the left. It turned out to be a well-judged move by Falcioni. With the more dynamic Erivit in the middle the ball was moved quicker and Boca played with at a quicker tempo with greater width.

Miños had a positive impact but the winning goal came from the right-side where Pineda’s inability to protect the ball on the half way line was taken advantage of by Rivero who pressed, won the ball and gave it to substitute Pablo Mouche who exchanged passes with Riquelme before standing up a cross for Santiago ‘Battering Ram’ Silva to head the winner. Martin Palermo watching on would have been proud of the finish.

The Chileans frustrations in conceding the late goal were shown in Diego Scotti’s wild hack at Riquelme which earned him a straight red card.

Unión Española 2-1 Bolívar – La Furia Roja end 18-year maleficio

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.

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Week 11 Round-up/Talking Points – Game of the season, Cobreloa plummet, Blue is the colour, Muñoz threatened, Clásico de Inconsistencia and more

Mauro Diaz evades the challenge of Luis Mena as Union Espanola prevail in a classic (image: unionespanola.cl)

A quiet week in Chile? No not really. So what is in store for Week 11. Unión Española and Colo Colo took part in arguably the game of the year so far and one of the best games anywhere The Red One has witnessed this season. High-tempo football? Check. Goals? Check. Unreliable defences? Check.

Elsewhere Cobreloa suffered a Nelson Acosta hangover in Santiago while Santiago Wanderers of Valparaíso were brought back down to Earth with a bump in Santiago, blue is colour in the top places of Apertura and there was varying degrees of success for new (and relatively new) managers.

Off the field there is a worrying situation developing at Colo Colo between certain players and fans while we look ahead to the first big Santiago derby and share some transfer news surrounding two of Chile’s most promising defenders.

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Week 7 Talking Points – Basay enters the last chance Saloon, awesome Mati, continental hangover, more Cobresal misery and Week 8’s top game

Under Pressure; Ivo Basay (image: FOXSportsLA)

1. Basay’s 90 minutes

As hundreds made their way towards the exit to begin a mass exodus others stayed behind to whistle, jeer and boo. It was a familiar sight at the Estadio Monumental as Colo Colo once again disappointed; falling to a 2-0 loss to Deportes La Serena.

Ivo Basay’s job in charge of Los Albos is hanging by a single thread. Defeat against Cobreloa on Saturday and that thread will snap. Win and the thread will be strengthened, there’ll no long be the same weight pulling on it. At least for another week anyway.

But the departure of Basay looks inevitable with Colo Colo in a lowly 11th and little signs of improvement. Universidad de Chile are Universidad de Chile. They have a quality manager, talented players and most importantly they have an ideology.

Universidad Católica and their coach Mario Lepe have also come in for criticism from fans but away from their inconsistency they have quality throughout a balanced squad. If anything they have too many options.

Colo Colo are trailing their Santiago rivals on and off field. They have a top heavy squad which still relies on the predatory instincts and guile of Esteban Paredes as well as midfield maestro Rodrigo Millar while the promising striker Carlos Muñoz has struggled.

The transfer window signings have not worked out as expected. Former player Guillermo Páez explained the inadequate recruitment policy, “They brought in four or five strikers and in defence believed that (Pablo) Contreras was enough, but work is needed.”

The defensive vulnerability was again on show in the defeat to La Serena. Committing players forward and playing with a high line there was no protection offered to the defence. Every time La Serena won possession they looked as if they could score at will, quickly transitioning from defence to attack.

They may have ‘only’ conceded seven goals in seven games – the fifth best defensive record in the league – but it is made worse by the fact they have only scored seven goals despite the abundance of attacking options.

Against an organised and structured Cobreloa Basay will have to spend a substantial time on attacking movements if there is any chance of keeping his job with El Cacique. Not to forget the weakness in defending counter-attacks.

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Peñarol 1-1 Universidad de Chile – La U survive early aerial bombardment to secure vital away point (plus Unión Española and Universidad Católica also draw 1-1)

Francisco Castro evades two challenges

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.

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Bolívar 1-3 Unión Española

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.

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