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.
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.
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.