The past weekend saw the commencement of the Apertura play-off semi-finals, and there were surprises in store with the top two of the regular season losing their first-legs without registering a goal.
On Saturday O’Higgins lost 1-0 at Unión Española thanks to a goal from the impressive Emiliano Vecchio and 24 hours later Universidad de Chile succumbed 2-0 to Colo Colo in an empty Estadio Monumental in a surreal encounter with a sodden pitch and two red cards . . . for Colo Colo.
It concluded a miserable week for La U who arguably put in their most insipid display under Jorge Sampaoli at La Bombonera against Boca Juniors in the Copa Libertadores semi-final first-leg. La U are now required to overturn two two goal deficit’s this week in two separate competitions.
In more positive news San Marcos de Arica triumphed in the Primera B Apertura to collect their first divisional title since 1981 and confirm their place in the end of season promotion play-offs.
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.
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.
Vargas sees red but La U reach the final (IMG:ANFP)
Cobreloa 1-2 Colo Colo (Agg 4-4)
Attacking and defending. The good teams can do one. The great teams can do both. This present Colo Colo side fall into the former. A valiant effort in a fascinating and high-paced encounter was not enough to edge past a Cobreloa side coached by the gregarious ex-Chile manager Nelson Acosta.
Colo Colo had to win by two clear goals due to Cobreloa’s higher placed finish in the league and wasted no time racing into a two goal lead. But eventually defensive failings would re-surface even as Cobreloa went down to ten men.
Los Albos got off to a great start after 15 minutes when Esteban Paredes brought down a long ball played out of defence while turning Cobreloa defender Cristian Suárez all in one movement before slipping in Muñoz in his second movement. The striker hit into the ground and across goalkeeper Nicolás Peric, setting up a wonderful evening of football.
In an explosive opening to the Clausura play-offs three of the four games went the way of the positional seeding with three away wins. The only home win coming from Universidad Católica who, despite finishing below Audax Italiano, were arguably favourites to win through to the semi-finals. It is looking likely that three of the four semi-final places will be taken by the three Santiago Giants.
Saturday saw a glut of goals as 12 were scored in the two games while on Sunday the two encounters were tight and tentative, both away teams winning a goal to nil.
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.
Two minutes. That is all it took for Chile to put Friday’s defeat to Argentina behind them and kick-start the long road to Brazil 2014 with a manic 4-2 win over Andean rivals Peru – providing the perfect tonic for an ill Claudio Borghi. Defensive errors that plagued the team in the 4-1 defeat to La Albiceleste were still evident and show no sign of being eradicated but further forward La Roja continue to exhilarate and excite.
Eduardo Vargas – who was one of three Chilean changes from Friday – gave La Roja a dynamic presence in attack troubling Peru with his direct runs and pace while the combination of Gary Medel and Arturo Vidal in the midfield provide a solid base with bite – defensively and offensively. Then there is ‘El Mago’ himself, Jorge Valdivia. He truly is the magician, his feet wands linking midfield and attack, disappearing and reappearing at the right times.
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.