Week 15 Round-up – Top three lose as competition for play-off places at the top and bottom heats up

Jorge Ormeno celebrates scoring Santiago Wanderers’ winner (img: charlatecnica.cl)

Week 15 took on an unusual look due to local elections in Chile, meaning no games on Sunday. So instead we had games spread over four three days; Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Monday (I’ll get to that at the end). However it did not detract from the importance of the third last round of fixtures with relegation, relegation play-off and play-off places all still up in the air; a feature of the Primera División, with only 17 games in each tournament the league table always remains close.

There were a number of surprises as the top three were all defeated, including Colo Colo, allowing Palestino to nip in and overtake the aforementioned Colo Colo, Deportes Iquique and Rangers to the top of the table.

In the middle of the Clausura, in the scrap for a play-off place, little changed in the way of position but in terms of closeness the competition for places is at boiling point with nine teams separated by four points with three places realistically up for grabs.

At the bottom it is tight but with only five teams realistically involved; four points separating the five teams.

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Week 12 Round-up: Colo Colo are hot on the heels of an unfamiliar front three

Munoz continued his fine goal scoring form (not a picture from Sunday)

Any passer-by, with a semblance of world football knowledge, looking at the Clausura table would be surprised to see the traditional trio of Chilean giants placed 4th, 5th and 6th.

And as the old adage goes ‘the league table never lies’; in first place we have Deportes Iquique, followed by Rangers and then Palestino. Collectively they have won 21 games of the 36 they’ve played in the Clausura compared to the 17 victories Colo Colo, Universidad Católica and Universidad de Chile have amassed in the same number of games.

But they will have to continue their fine form to hold off the challenge of Colo Colo who currently rampant as they look to Continental competition for the first time in two years.

Down at the bottom the fight continues to avoid the bottom four places in the annual table; bottom two are automatically relegated while 3rd and 4th bottom contest a play-off with sides from the Primera B.

However on paper there was only one contender for game of the week, the Clausura’s first el clásico as Universidad Católica entertained Colo Colo at the Estadio San Carlos. And that is the focus of this week’s round-up:

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Week 8 Round-up: Ivo Basay remains, O’Higgins recover and Universidad de Chile + Unión Española = goles

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.

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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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Week 7 Round-up: Colo Colo disappoint again, O’Higgins lose to ‘good’ Catolica, La U are back to their frightening best and more . . .

Roberto Ovelar (middle) celebrates his winner for Catolica against O'Higgins (image: La Cuarta)

Rangers 2-0 Palestino

Rangers put an end to a horrible sequence of results which saw them lose four on the bounce to over come a Palestino side that enjoyed large quantities of possession but lacked the cutting edge in the final third.

Both teams began the game with early long range testers. Palestino’s Nicolás Canales saw his shot from the edge of the box fly past the right-hand post. Mauricio Goméz went even closer moments later. Dropping off the front he turned with the ball and under little pressure unleashed a stinging effort from close on 30 yards which was acrobatically saved by Felipe Núñez.

Both Goméz and Núñez would be involved in the goal that broke the deadlock. A long clearance (hoof) from defence sailed over the Palestino backline enticing the goalkeeper to advance from goal in an attempt to head the ball clear but ended up jumping into his own defender, the ball hitting off his shoulder and bouncing into the path of Goméz 25-yards out. The rangy striker took the chance first time and lofted the ball into the empty net.

Goméz and Núñez  were the main protagonists in the encounter, the goalkeeper blocking the striker’s shot before the tricky Cristian Maidana set up Milton Caraglio with some dazzling wing play but the number nine skewed his shot off a defender and wide.

Palestino were unable to conjure up goal scoring chances despite their possession. Too often they were too slow to work the ball quicker into Canales and Diego Chaves. Although they appeared to have scored early in the second half when Chaves arrowed a shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the box but a consultation between referee and linesman resulted in a free-kick to Rangers on the touchline. For what, I have no idea.

With Palestino leaving three at the back Rangers took advantage with the last kick off the ball. Great interplay allowed Goméz to release Lucas Ojeda down the right and Ojeda returned the favour, rolling a pass perfectly into the striker’s path to slide home.

Universidad de Concepción 3-1 Cobreloa

After a positive start to the season Nelson Acosta’s Cobreloa have now lost two and drawn one in their last three games after falling to Universidad de Concepción.

The only moment of note in the first half was when Sebastian Villegas was shown a straight red card for an apparent kick out at a Concepción player. However it looked nothing more than a flick of the boot. Yet it only took them six second half minutes to open the scoring. Cobreloa goalkeeper Luciano Palos fumbled Gabriel Vargas’ through ball and Pedro Muñoz was on hand to lift in from six yards.

Los Mineros were level only three minute later; Cristain Canio curling in a wonderful free-kick from 25 yards.

However the extra man proved crucial as José Jimenez stood up a cross for Claudio Guerra to head, unmarked, into the top corner. The win was sealed in injury time as Jimenez again tore past his marker to set-up Vargas who scored at the second attempt.

Audax Italiano 0-6 Universidad de Chile

It is clear that Jorge Sampaoli and his Universidad de Chile do not like people asking questions of them or even stealing their thunder. Since the start of the Apertura and Copa Libertadores they have had to listen to everyone compare the team to that of the Copa Sudamericana winning team; a change of three players. They have also witnessed Santiago Wanderers, Cobreloa and O’Higgins all sit at the summit of the Apertura.

But there is no keeping La U down. Another week, another fine performance. Forget five star performances. La U are all about rising to the next level.

They got the scoring started after only six minutes in La Florida against a hapless Audax Italiano; Matías Rodríguez heading in a Charles Aránguiz corner. Eleven minutes later and Rodríguez doubled his and Los Azules tally with another header. Rising at the back post unchecked to head Gustavo Lorenzetti’s clipped cross past Alejandro Sánchez.

Los Tanos were able to keep La U quiet for just under half an hour before Junior Fernándes wriggled free in the box and thrashed a low cross across the six yard box, taking out Sánchez and his defence for Eugenio Mena to control and fire into the empty net.

Ten minutes into the second half an El Chuncho were at it again. Aránguiz played a lovely disguised pass to meet the run of Rodríguez through the flat backline and the full-back easily completed his hat-trick. By this time La U were more than enjoying themselves, the confidence in their quick, high-tempo passing returning. Mena played a pass into Lorenzetti who deceivably turned the ball ‘round the corner’ for Fernándes to run onto a finish cutely over Sánchez.

Number six, to complete the rout, was added three minutes from time through Peruvian Raúl Ruidíaz. A confident finish into the top corner after La U had played their way from left to right, through a fed-up Audax defence.

Universidad de Chile are now back on top. Out in front on their own.

O’Higgins 1-2 Universidad Católica

The match-up of the weekend was arguably table topping O’Higgins hosting Universidad Católica who, like most teams, are still striving for a level of consistency which has led to criticisms of coach Mario Lepe.

However it was the good side of Católica that turned up in Rancagua to win late on against the surprise early place setters.

UC went in front after 12 minutes through the ever impressive Felipe Gutiérrez who was stationed behind Roberto Ovelar in an attacking trident that also featured the returning Nicólas Trecco. A long ball was flicked on by the Paraguayan striker, Ovelar, to Gutiérrez who played a quick one two with Michael Ríos in a tight space on the edge of the box before cutting inside the defender and making an awkward chance look simple by clipping the ball inside the far post.

O’Higgins showed mere glimpses of threat in the first half as they struggled to cope with UC, not helped by the lack of defensive midfielder protecting the back four in a 4-3-3. This meant there were a number of shots, unpressurised, from outside the area for Católica with Luis Marín having to be alert on more than one occasion.

A much improved O’Higgins came out for the second half and produced football that was akin to a team at the top of the league. More pressure in the Cató half kept the ball away from their goal and they equalised through Enzo Gutiérrez has he got across his marker Cristian Álvarez to nod in Yerko Opazo’s cross at the near post.

It was Gutiérrez who had O’Higgins best chance to collect all three points. The skilled Guillermo Suárez duck and dove on the left to create space for a cross that was dummied by Gutiérrez for Boris Sagredo to curl an effort off the inside of the post and Gutiérrez could only blaze the rebound over the bar.

With game heading for a draw UC highlighted the quality they possess as Ovelar again was the focal point for a quick, precise move. Francisco Silva fired a ball into the feet of Ovelar before receiving a return pass, only to give it back to Ovelar who emphatically thundered the late winner.

The three points mean Los Cruzados hop above O’Higgins to occupy second spot behind rivals Universidad de Chile.

Colo Colo 0-2 Deportes La Serena

The final game of the weekend was one to forget for Ivo Basay and all connected with Colo Colo. Not for the first time this season Los Albos looked toothless in attack, lifeless in midfield and helpless in defence. And once again they were booed from the field by fans who called for the resignation of President Hernán Levy.

Six minutes from half-time La Serena caught Colo Colo on the break, Mauricio Salazar running clear of the defence’s high line and squaring to Eduardo Rubio to put Los Papayeros into the lead.

Colo Colo rarely threatened, not even with Rodrigo Millar back in the team. They were devoid of inspiration and La Serena were comfortable defending deep and keeping the home side out while maintaining a threat on the break, constantly troubling the week underbelly of Los Albos.

Even when Colo Colo fathomed a chance Rainer Wirth was on hand to deny them. Miguel ‘El Mago’ González tried his luck from range forcing Wirth to parry but the goalkeeper reacted in time to make a crucial intervention as Esteban Paredes pounced to level the score.

La Serena then painfully massaged salt into the gaping Colo Colo wound scoring a second late on. Once again it was Rubio. And once again it was on the break. The former Basel forward had looked dangerous all night; nut-megging Chilean international Pablo Contreras before bamboozling Christian Vilches and firing into the bottom corner past Francisco Prieto.

Despite speculation Basay has been assured of his position. At least for just now. However with his side now in 11th place a defeat at the weekend to Cobreloa and El Cacique may well be looking for a new boss.

Round-up

Huachipato surprisingly came from behind at Unión Española to win 3-1. Emmanuel Herrera had given La Furia Roja and early lead but Manuel Villalobos levelled and Gabriel Sandoval and Bryan Rodríguez won the game in the second half moving the victors above their opponents in the standings. Unión La Calera and Unión San Felipe played out a goalless draw in Saturday’s late game.

In the midday kick-off on Sunday Paraguayan José Portillo scored the only goal of the game to give Antofagasta a narrow win over Santiago Wanderers. And finally despite a change of manager Cobresal continue their miserable start to the season. Edson Puch and Cristian Bogado both scored doubles to give Deportes Iquique an assured victory. The Dragones Celestes move to 4th after the win.

Apertura 2012: Week 1 Round-up – The new season gets off to a tame start in the heat

Catolica and Palestino clash (IMG: ANFP)

With the Clausura’s top two – Universidad de Chile and Cobreloa – not in action there was a chance for one of the contenders to lay down an early marker as Santiago inhabitants looked to escape the baking heat which had swept the capital.

However Colo Colo were booed off at home to Deportes Iquique – who had new signing Edson Puch impressing on his debut – while Universidad Católica recovered from an insipid first half performance to collect three points. There was better news for Union  Española who added to their first round first-leg Coap Libertadores win with maximum points.

The two promoted teams enjoyed mix fortunes back in the Primera.

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