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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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.

Clausura Final: Universidad de Chile complete treble with 3-0 aggregate win over Cobreloa

The finale to a glorious year (IMG: ANFP)

When the clock ticked down to midnight on the 31st December there would have been much reminiscing in Santiago from Azul Azul fans after Universidad de Chile completed an unprecedented Apertura, Clausura and Copa Sudamericana treble with a thumping 3-0 second-leg win over Cobreloa in the Estadio Nacional on the 29th after a goal-less first-leg on Boxing Day.

In 2011 Chilean football may have witnessed a team that will go down as one of the best and most successful in the country’s history. A look at how they arrived at three trophies in a year and countless records broken can be read in more detail here.

Over the two-legged final La U showed their dominance in the end after what can only be described as an edgy and gritty first-leg in Calama. There was little in the way of goal mouth action. However there was controversy as Cobreloa had a goal controversially ruled out. Nicolás Trecco’s flicked header from a corner was met by Diego Barrios who saw his own header come down off the bar prompting a scramble on the La U line between Jhonny Herrera and Cobreloa defender Sebastián Roco. Herrera managed to trap the ball under his legs but it was knocked free and Barrios bundled the ball behind the line. The referee, Eduardo Gamboa, adjudged Herrera to have had the ball under his control.

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Universidad de Chile 3-0 O’Higgins

Universidad de Chile rounded off a splendid week with a comprehensive 3-0 home win against O’Higgins to continue their indomitable Clausura form, creating Chilean football history in the process. Sunday evening’s win saw La U set a new record, winning nine consecutive games; beating the previous record of eight wins in a row, achieved by Cobreloa back in 1978 and more recently Colo-Cole in 2007.

During the week La U had made the trip to Uruguay to play Nacional in the Copa Sudamericana where a confident first half performance led to a two goal half-time lead – 3-0 on aggregate – before an item thrown from the home crowd, striking a linesman, saw the game suspended and tie handed to the Chilean side; a tie with Ronaldinho’s Flamengo awaits in the last 16 of the tournament.

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