Santiago is the only city in South America with two representatives in the quarter-finals of the Copa Sudamericana after Universidad Católica and Universidad de Chile both came through tight two-legged affairs.
Both teams’ progression means that there is still the possibility of the clubs meeting in the semi-final. But before then they need to come through tough ties against illustrious clubs from Argentina and Brazil.
UC and La U went into their games on the back of disappointments in the league; UC were beaten 2-0 at home to Huachipato while Los Azules lost el superclásico to arch-rivals Colo Colo.
The match had entered stoppage time. There were barely five minutes of stoppage time remaining. Universidad de Chile were trailing O’Higgins 3-2 on aggregate in the Apertura play-off final. The end of a glorious era was approaching a heartbreaking finale. This once in a generation team that had won the club its first ever continental title had run out of energy, verve and most importantly ingenuity.
The 101st game was going the same way as the 100th, 98th, 97th and 96th; disappointment and there seemed little Jorge Sampaoli or his players could do about it.
But then a sudden burst from substitute Roberto Cereceda down the right dissected O’Higgins and created space for a cross. On his weaker right foot he clipped the ball into the box. There he was, positioned just as he was in the first-leg, Guillermo Marino. The veteran Argentine may not possess the pace of Junior Fernándes or the explosiveness of Matías Rodríguez or boundless energy of Charles Aránguiz but what he does harness is a technical ability and composure that would not look out of place in some of the best teams in the world. As the ball was clipped to him time seemed to slow, the Estadio Nacional wanted just one more reason to rock but before that came the silence, the intake of breath. Many would panic and thrash at the ball; others would take a touch before being blocked, but not Marino. Where players would lose their heads Marino stalked the ball with his eyes. Marino and the ball, the only two objects that mattered. With his right foot he guided the cross back across goal and into the bottom corner, Luis Marín scraping his fingers against the ball.
O’Higgins are 90 minutes away from completing an historic moment in the club’s 57-year history. Having never won a top division Championship O’Higgins take a slender 2-1 lead into the second-leg of the Apertura play-off final.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that they will have to draw or defeat Universidad de Chile in the Estadio Nacional. Thee Universidad de Chile. The same Universidad de Chile side that recovered from a 4-1 first-leg defeat to Deportivo Quito in the Copa Libertadores by running amok with a 6-0 second-leg victory. And only last week they saw Colo Colo’s 2-0 win in the Apertura semi-final first-leg and rose them with a 4-0 win in the second.
But as Jorge Osorio signalled the end of the game last night the second-leg did not seem to be at the forefront of the players and fans’ thoughts as they cavorted and celebrated a second win over La U in 2012 – another win that they deserved.
Carlos Munoz celebrates his opener in Colo Colo's vital 2-0 win against Cobreloa (image: Elgrafico)
Santiago Wanderers 1-0 Unión San Felipe
Santiago Wanderers left it late on Friday night to clinch three deserved points in a game where they had the majority of the running but lacked a ruthless edge in the final third until stoppage time that was.
With Nicolás Martínez a constant danger in behind the two strikers Los Catturos almost opened the scoring early on when Martínez released Rodrigo Toloza who crossed for Pablo Calandria but the striker could only head over.
Martínez was most impressive finding space in and around the box, playing balls into dangerous areas. Wanderers found most of their attacks heading down the left flank as Martinez drifted across to link with Toloza and Boris Sandoval.