Universidad de Chile 2-2 Emelec – Observations plus Católica’s victory

Enzo Gutierrez celebrates

While the Copa Sudamericana began back in late August Universidad de Chile had to wait until Tuesday evening (CLST) before they could begin the defence of the title they won in thrilling fashion last year. In that time three Chilean sides – Cobreloa, Deportes Iquique and O’Higgins – fell by the way side which left Universidad Católica as the sole Chilean survivor of the first two rounds (La U entering at the last-16 stage as holders).

Universidad de Chile had not won on the continental or international stage since their obliteration of Deportivo Quito at the quarter-final stage of the Copa Libertadores in May. Since that 6-0 thrashing of the Ecuadorians La U have played 7 games, drawn 4 and lost 3 – one of which was on penalties.

And it was Ecuadorian opposition again for Los Azules in the shape of Emelec from the city of Guayaquil. But if you were looking for symmetry as La U ended their winless run then you will be disappointed.

La U lacked the fluidity, tempo and aggression that brought them success in last year’s edition of the Copa Sudamericana, falling behind to a fine Luciano Figueroa finish before Enzo Gutiérrez equalised. Marlon de Jesús put Emelec back in front as the game headed for the recess but Sebastián Ubilla restored parity moments after the break. La U could not kick on and find the winner which would have given them a slender advantage going into the return leg.

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Clausura Preview – Managerial changes, ins and outs plus Copa Sudamericana draw

After a break of three days the second instalment of the 2012 Chilean league season commences as Deportes La Serena welcome Rangers in the first match of the Clausura this evening. It starts yet another hectic period of Chilean football, especially for those teams involved in the Copa Sudamericana.

On Monday evening past, in Santiago, Universidad de Chile rose from their fatigued slumber to become only the third side to win three consecutive Campeonatos and now, clinging onto Jorge Sampaoli, embark on another frantic journey which will see them look to create history by becoming the first side to win four-straight Campeonates while defending their Copa Sudamericana title and looking to win the Copa Chile and Recopa Sudamericana in Japan against 2011 Copa Libertadores champions Santos.

However it isn’t all going to be about Universidad de Chile. Well the chasing pack certainly hopes not. O’Higgins should continue to grow under Eduardo Berizzo’s stewardship, Unión Española won’t have to combine continental competition and domestic business and Chile’s two other giants both start the new season with new managers but with the loss of a number of key players and promising young talent.

Whilst down at the bottom Cobresal and Unión San Felipe have to play catch up if they are to prevent the likely drop down to Primera B.

Managerial movement

After the inevitable departure of Mario Lepe on the back of Universidad Católica’s exit from the Copa Libertadores, Cato appointed Uruguayan Martín Lasarte as their new coach in the close season.

The 51-year-old spent two seasons at Spanish side Real Sociedad with whom he won promotion to La Liga in his first season. A difficult second season saw him part with the Basque club and Católica is his first management job since. Targeting success with Los Cruzados, he has stated that he is focusing on recruiting experience to aid the likes of Kevin Harbottle and Nicólas Castillo and drive Cato towards challenging Universidad de Chile.

Omar Labruna

Across town at the Estadio Monumental Colo Colo last week appointed Omar Labruna as their new coach. Interim boss Luis Perez was not considered having presided over four and five nil defeats to La U.

At one point in the Apertura Labruna was on the verge of walking out of Audax Italiano due to poor results.

It will be interesting to see the system Labruna lays out for Colo Colo. At Los Tanos he set his team out in a 3-4-1-2 formation; a system Los Tanos is comfortable playing in. It’s anticipated that he may move to a defensive four but will have to work around the departures of Esteban Paredes and Bryan Rabello further forward.

Labruna’s appointment at Los Albos opened the door for Audax Italiano to appoint Argentine Pablo Marini as their new coach. It will be Marini’s second stint in charge of Italiano having been in charge in 2009. He led the club to both the Apertura and Clausura play-offs and the same feat will be expected of him this time around.

Elsewhere Palestino, after a 15th place finish, let go of Uruguayan coach José Daniel Carreño replacing him with Emiliano Astorga who impressively oversaw Unión La Calera’s 7th place finish but left due to conflicts surrounding finances.

La Calera brought in Raúl Toro as the replacement to carry on Astorga’s good work.

Ins and Outs

Here is a link to a comprehensive list of all the transfers so far in the Primera Divisón.

It is unsurprising that players of the three giants of Chilean football, Universidad de Chile, Colo Colo and Universidad Católica, feature heavily.

La U say farewell to Junior Fernándes barely six months after signing; the Chilean internationalist having shot onto most club’s radar with his physical stature and goal scoring ability from a wide forward position. He will look to continue his rise at Bayer Leverkusen. Yet the biggest farewell was left for Marcelo Díaz who moves to Basel after a splendid 18 months playing under Jorge Sampaoli; going from a bit-part, versatile player to the midfield metronome.

La U has brought in Argentine Ezequiel Videla as a replacement in midfield.

New manager Lasarte had little time to get to know Felipe Gutiérrez before he was whisked off to Holland to sign for Steve McLaren’s Twente. The versatile creator should prove a very shrewd signing for Twente, after all it seemed like he was the only Cato player capable of doing anything of note for long periods of the Apertura.

He was joined in the Cato departure lounge to Holland by Stefano Magnasco who joins Groningen.

Lasarte has been busy bringing in Fernando Cordero, a good signing from Unión Española, veteran Sixto Peralta from Cluj in Romania and today he has added two further players to his roster with striker Alvaro Ramos joining from Deportes Iquique and Tomas Costa arriving from Colon de Santa Fe for his second spell at the club.

Arguably the biggest disappointment of the transfer window so far was Colo Colo losing 18-year-old Bryan Rabello to Sevilla. If you were playing Football Manager Rabello would fall into the ‘hot prospect/sign-straight-away-on-the-cheap’ category. And that is exactly what Sevilla have done. His contract had run down and despite willing to stay at the club he has been at most his life his representatives took him to Europe on a deal worth around £400,000 to Colo Colo – a measly figure for one so talented.

At the other end of the age spectrum talismanic striker and Chilean internationalist Esteban Paredes moved to Mexican football with Atlante after contract negotiations broke down.

The only incomer so far is midfielder Fernando de la Fuente who impressed at Deportes La Serena in the Apertura.

Au Revoir Emmanuel

Elsewhere there have been two notable departures but few coming the other way. Emmanuel Herrera leaves Unión Española to replace Olivier Giroud at French champions Montpellier while fellow striker Nicolás Canales has joined Azerbaijan side Neftchi Baku from Palestino.

Cobreloa have probably been the busiest releasing a number of first team players including Felipe Flores, Cristián Milla and Javier Elizondo.

Copa Sudamericana Draw

The draw for the Copa Sudamericana was made last Friday with five Chilean teams involved; Universidad de Chile, Cobreloa, O’Higgins, Deportes Iquique and Universidad Católica.

Unlike the Copa Libertadores there is no group stage. The teams, excluding those from Argentina and Brail and Universidad de Chile, enter ‘Phase 1’ where they are drawn ‘locally’ in ‘Group South’ and ‘Group North’.

The four remaining Chilean teams enter ‘Group South’ and have drawn the following:

Deportes Iquique v Nacional (URU)

Blooming (BOL) v Universidad Católica

Tacuary (PAR) v Cobreloa

O’Higgins v Cerro Porteño

The games will be played over two legs and the winners will advance to ‘Phase Two’ where the teams from Argentina and Brazil enter. There is no ‘local split’.

Deportes Iquique or Nacional (URU) v Monagas (VEN) or Ecuador 2*

Blooming (BOL) or Universidad Católica v Tolima (COL) or Deportivo Lara

Tacuary (PAR) or Cobreloa v Táchira or Ecuador 1*

O’Higgins or Cerro Porteño v La Equidad (COL) or Mineros (VEN)

*Ecuador’s places have yet to be decided.

The 15 winners of ‘Phase Two’ will join Copa Sudamericana holders Universidad de Chile in the last-16.

Universidad de Chile 2-1 O’Higgins (Agg 3-3, 2-0 pens) – La U become only the third Chilean side to win three-straight Championships

Campeones!

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.

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Universidad de Chile 0-0 Boca Juniors – La U exit the Libertadores signalling what could be the beginning of the end

As Julio César Falcioni turned to embrace his coaching staff and Juan Román Riquelme stretched his arms heavenwards in joy the players of Universidad de Chile and their passionate support shared a moment. But it wasn’t the feeling joy that they had come accustomed to in the 98 games since January 2011. Instead the feeling was disappointment. The chance to add a Copa Libertadores to the 2011 Apertura, Clausura and Copa Sudamericana titles had disappeared; once again at the semi-final stage – the second time in three years.

La U needed to overturn a 2-0 first-leg defeat against an imperious Boca Juniors side. Fatigue had began to perturb ‘El Chuncho’ in recent weeks and despite one last valiant effort La U were – deservedly – prevented from making history.

Chances did materialise but Boca were in control throughout and should have wrapped the game up as a contest before Darío Ubríaco blew for half-time.

Teams

Both teams made two changes apiece to the sides that lined up for the first-leg. For Boca Clemente Rodríguez returned from injury to replace one of the goal scorers from last week, Juan Sánchez Miño, while Juan Insaurralde’s injury meant a start for Matías Caruzzo alongside Rolando Schiavi at the heart of the defence. Falconi kept his side in their 4-3-1-2 that has worked so well for them throughout the duration of the tournament.

Jorge Sampaoli not only changed personnel but he changed the formation of the side. Out went Albert Acevedo and Gustavo Lorenzetti with Guillermo Marino and Francisco Castro coming into the team as the Argentine coach switched to a 4-3-3 to counter the threat of Juan Román Riquelme. Sampaoli felt that the playmaker was afforded too much space and time when he moved out to the left flank as pinpointed in the analysis of the game last week.

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Boca Juniors 2-0 Universidad de Chile – Boca throw of the defensive shackles to shock La U

It was billed as one of the games of the year. Argentine champions versus all-conquering Chilean champions. Pragmatism versus exciting fluidity. Defensive organisation versus exhilarating attacks. But what transpired was Boca Juniors showing world football that there is more to their game than organisation and counter-attacks.

And once more Universidad de Chile is left with it all to do in the second-leg of their Copa Libertadores semi-final tie. In the previous round they scraped past Paraguay’s Libertad on penalties while the tie before that saw El Chuncho overturn a 4-1 first-leg deficit with a 6-0 victory in Santiago.

But this time it is different. This time they trail 2-0 to Boca. A Boca side who have conceded just 20 goals in their previous 36 league matches. A Boca team who give off the aura of perennial winners.

It was expected that Boca would defend deep and attack the spaces La U left behind with swift counter-attacks. Yet Julio César Falconi and his side took a risk – with Juan Román Riquelme in tow – pressing La U high which led to both goals; scored by Santiago ‘El Tanque’ Silva and Juan Sánchez Miño. Counter-attacking weapon Clemente Rodríguez missed out at left-back and was replaced by Sánchez Miño while Pablo Mouche started up front . . . and had the game of his live.

La U, lining up in their usual 3-4-3 variant, was visibly shaken to the point they failed to emerge from their slumber, constantly losing possession and lacking in any defensive organisation. The latter a problem that is becoming all too frequent for Jorge Sampaoli.

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Universidad de Chile 6-0 Deportivo Quito – (Belated) Talking Points: Sampaoli’s bravery, Marcelo Díaz, Movement, Quito and La U’s variety

Marcelo Diaz: La U’s heartbeat (image: El Grafico)

In Europe’s Champions League overturning a three goal deficit in the knock-out stages is seen as unlikely. But in South America’s equivalent, the Copa Libertadores, things are little crazier, a little more hectic and a little more manic. Due to the vast distances teams have to travel and the differing altitudes games are played at the home teams are often handed an advantage. Overturning a three goal difference in South America is seen as entirely possible.

Universidad de Chile travelled to Ecuador two weeks ago this Thursday to play Deportivo Quito in a city – second to La Paz – infamous for its altitude; some 9,200ft above sea level.

La U had dealt with Quito’s altitude before. Only in December past did they win against LDU Quito. And then you factor in their young, fit, dynamic and talented squad as well as Chilean teams adaptability at playing at altitude.

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Copa Libertadores Preview

Chile has three participants in this years Copa Libertadores. Everyone’s eyes will be on Jorge Sampaoli’s Universidad de Chile who are looking to make it a Copa Libertadores/Copa Sudamericana double but must do so without the brilliance of Eduardo Vargas. However they have retained Jorge Sampaoli and the bulk of the squad which won the Sudamericana before the new year, as well as the 2011 Apertura and Clausura, while adding even more promise to the squad.

Chile’s other contenders are Universidad Católica and Unión Española who occupy the same group and it is hoped, and expected, that at least one of the two qualify. They may not have the quality throughout the squad La U possess but both have talented youngsters that could light up the Libertadores.

Hopefully the gifted youngsters from each team are allowed to illuminate the knock-out stages:

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