Week 13 Round-up – Changes at the top once more as two points separate five teams

Colo Colo’s Felipe Flores battles with Carlos Lopez

After the 13th round of fixtures three teams share the lead at the top with 26 points; Palestino in first place due to their greater number of wins. Tucked in behind are Universidad de Chile and Rangers.

La U finally got back to winning ways in a sun-baked Antofagasta while the game of the weekend saw Rangers travel to the soaking Estadio Monumental and share four goals with Colo Colo.

Friday night’s match once again saw goals and there was even a Monday night game which produced, yes you guessed it, goals.

In between the two games Universidad Católica got back to winning ways in the league while there was a Clásico in the Atacama.

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The Dani Alves of Argentina? Matias Rodriguez could be the perfect international foil for Messi on the right flank

Mati celebrates another goal

When Eduardo Vargas boarded a plane for Naples in January, he left a void in the Universidad de Chile squad. And not just any void either, but a gaping hole as the Copa Sudamericana player of the tournament and top scorer left in a lucrative move to Napoli.

The Chilean international’s departure, along with that of regular first-team members such as Gustavo Canales, Marcos Gonzalez and Diego Rivarola, meant greater responsibility fell on the shoulders of those still at the club. One player more than most has thrived under the pressure, despite his partner in crime leaving to prove himself in Serie A with Napoli. Meet the Azul’s answer to Dani Alves in the team dubbed the ‘Barcelona of the Americas’: Matias Rodriguez.

For much of January it was speculated that the right-sided Argentine wing-back would also cross the Atlantic and join Benfica’s South American legion, but he stayed in Santiago. Not only has he stayed, he has arguably been transformed into the club’s most important player; impressing so much that the calls for a first cap to the Argentina team intensify with each passing 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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Apertura Update: el Superclásico, play-off race, managers of the (half) year and more

CINCO (image: La Tercera)

The last few weeks has seen me take a hiatus from the Primera División due to busy weekend schedules. But I was back watching on Sunday night as Universidad de Chile trounced hapless arch-rivals Colo Colo in el Superclásico.

So here is a run-down of what has gone on recently and how the league is shaping up with only three rounds remaining before the play-offs commence.

*Expect mentions about perfect Universidad de Chile, Matías Rodríguez, Ángelo Henríquez, el Superclásico, Eduardo Berizzo, Adrian Ramos, José Luis Sierra, Mario Lepe, rejuvenated Audax Italiano, rubbish Colo Colo, Cobreloa’s new coach, slipping Wanderers, Huachipato and those going nowehere.

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Universidad de Chile 2-1 Atlético Nacional – La U top group to set up last-16 tie with Deportivo Quito

Matigol!

Universidad de Chile made it nine straight wins to top Copa Libertadores Group 8 and set-up a last-16 tie with Depotivo Quito by taking revenge from their opening group game defeat; El Chuncho recorded a 2-1 victory over Colombian’s Atlético Nacional.

There were rare starts for 18-year-old Sebastián Martínez and Emilio Hernández but Jorge Sampaoli resisted the urge to make wholesale changes knowing a win would see Los Azules top the group and take their place as a seeded team in the draw.

It only took ten minutes for the first goal to be registered between two of the most impressive sides in the Libertadores so far. And it came from a source that some readers may now be (more) familiar with.

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Universidad de Chile 2-1 Peñarol – Rodríguez’s late strike puts La U in the driving seat to qualify for the knock-out stages

Mati Rodriguez's double floors Penarol

Universidad de Chile left it late to jump back into second place in Group 8 of the Copa Libertadores, overcoming Peñarol 2-1 and ending the 2011 finalists’ campaign in the process.

La U went ahead early in the first half and looked in a confident position even when José Rojas squandered a penalty. However it appeared as if the missed chance from 12 yards would cost them as the Uruguayans equalised after the break but Matías Rodríguez popped up in injury time to score another crucial goal which leaves Los Azules only one point behind group leaders Atlético Nacional.

With little under three minutes on the clock Junior Fernándes powered down the cross and fired a low cross which was spilled by Fabián Carini and bundled in by Rodríguez.

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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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