Tragedy struck in Chile as a bus carrying O’Higgins fans was involved in an accident, plummeting 150m down the side of a road in the earlier hours of Saturday morning, resulting in 16 death and even more injuries.
The league action still went on with Chilean football brought together in trying circumstances with supportive signs, black balloons and a minute’s silence present at grounds all over the country.
O’Higgins had defeated Huachipato in what was a confident performance, while San Marcos once again proved their ability to compete in the Primera. Universidad de Chile fell to Unión Española again, Colo Colo continue to struggle and Universidad Católica take the mantle of favourites for the Torneo Transición.
There is only one place to start.
A bus carrying a group of O’Higgins supporters back from their deserved 2-0 victory at Huachipato in Talcahuano fell 150m down a road side on a windy road, leaving 16 dead and more than 20 injured. Our condolences go out to the families of the supporters and O’Higgins football club. A truly tragic event.
The following days brought Chilean football fans together in unison with numerous ‘Fuerza O’Higgins’ signs in the stadiums, Unión Española fans brought black balloons to the Estadio Nacional for their game against Universidad de Chile, while a minute’s silence was observed up and down the peninsula.
O’Higgins had earlier dispatched Huachipato with a confident performance that the fans will have been proud of.
The two teams had similar game plans that were carried out to differing levels of effectiveness. Huachipato were one-dimensional and predictable. It has been noted more than once on this website already that los acerceros clearly miss Manuel Villalobos and Cesár Cortés. As each week goes on it is becoming increasingly evident. The ball went from back to front, constantly looking for Braian Rodríguez. More often than not he would fail to hold it up, leading to constant pressure from O’Higgins.
La celeste were also direct, but they had a structure to their game. A purpose. The ball was moved quickly through midfield with both wide forwards – Gonzalo Barriga and Luis Figueroa – heavily involved in the build-up. They were also not averse to going long if necessary, but it was mostly into the feet of Pablo Calandria, who looks a more effective player than the one that seemed lost up front for Universidad Católica and Santiago Wanderers.
They have lost both Sebastián Pinto and Ramon Fernández of late, but O’Higgins collectively look impressive – one can only wonder how the tragic events will effect them. Meanwhile, Huachipato appear to be in for a long Torneo, and need a big improvement if they’re not to be embarrassed in the Copa Libertadores.
Solid San Marcos
San Marcos de Arica have adjusted to the rigours of the Primera División so well that questions should be asked as to why it has taken them more than 27 years to arrive back to the summit of Chilean football.
Three games in and they remain unbeaten. 1-0 down and one man down – Federico Scoppa sent-off – to Audax Italiano away from home, Nicolás Trecco out of sorts a defeat looked inevitable. Then Sebastián Rivera, who was San Marcos’ best attacking threat, bounced in a cross to the middle of the box, and evading everyone it was drifting for a goal kick when José Pedrozo – that’s centre-back José Pedrozo – snuck in and levelled.
They were resolute and resilient. With ten men they defended superbly. Combative and no nonsense – exactly like their 35 and 31-year-old centre backs Segovia and Pedroso. Everything that came in the box was headed clear, kicked clear, any action that would get the ball clear. The bandaged Segovia especially was dominant – he was everywhere and rightly claimed the man of the match award.
Daniel Briceño’s work was almost equally excellent. Patrolling the midfield he often drifted to the right to protect the threat of Marco Medel with Trecco reluctant to defend. However, in possession he was conservative as he focused on keeping the ball and shifting it sensibly.
If Trecco can summon the form he showed at Cobreloa which got him the move to UC San Marcos have proved they have a resolute and resilient defence to keep them above most teams in the coeficiente de redemiento.
Peralta es muy bueno
Universidad Católica sit at the summit of the Toreno Transición, alongside Cobreloa and Everton, proving that at least one of the three grandes are living up to their esteemed reputation.
UC added wisely in the transfer window, shedding their bulging squad of fringe players and supplanting the squad with necessary buys – until they could not resist bringing Milovan Mirosevic and Carlos Villanueva back to Chile.
However, the transfers seem to have provoked Sixto Peralta, one of the disappointments of the Clausura campaign, in to giving the performances that were expected of him when he first signed.
The ex-Ipswich Town midfielder has been instrumental in Católica’s start to the season, with two wins at tough away venues sandwiching a disappointing 1-1 draw against 10-man Palestino.
In the three games Martín Lasarte has shown his side’s tactical flexibility playing with a back three and a back four. The former was used in Talca against Rangers as Los Cruzados dominated the opening 45 minutes going into the break with a 2-0 lead before adding a third in the second half when the game was won.
Peralta, used on the right of midfield in previous games, was positioned behind the new strike-force of Ismael Sosa and Carlos Bueno in a 3-4-1-2 system. His penetrating run saw him dissect the Rangers backline, round Nicolás Peric before his cut-back was converted by Rangers’ Francisco Tapia. Peralta was also heavily involved in the second goal, releasing Sosa to set up Bueno. The latter was enjoying one of his better performances since signing from Querétaro. He even had time to pick up and cuddle a dog which had made its way onto the pitch.
With no continental commitments and the team adding an exciting attacking facet to their play – not to mention Villanueva, Nicolás Castillo and Diego Rojas all still to appear – Cato have appeared as early favourites for the title.
The return of the bogey team
Despite the Copa Chile games that followed, the defeat to Unión Española will be remembered – by me anyway – as the culmination of Jorge Sampaoli’s time in charge of Universidad de Chile. La U had clearly run out of energy and what cohesion they had, falling 4-1 to La Furia Roja at the Estadio Nacional in the Clausura play-offs.
Española exploited the vast space that La U so often left to enforce their high-tempo, direct, in your face style of play that enthralled so many.
Less than three months later and Unión had done it again this time with a 3-0 win. However, La U are a changed entity so there was no swashbuckling attempts to overpower Española and run them ragged. Darío Franco is attempting to refine the team with a possession based strategy.
Española, not to dissimilar to Los Azules under Sampaoli, can be exploited by quick attacks due to their propensity to play open, expansive and attacking football. However, the slower pace of this La U side – missing José Rojas, Eugenio Mena, Charles Aránguiz, Osvaldo González and Gustavo Lorenzetti – made it easier for José Luis Sierra’s men to retreat and regain their shape before La U were able to penetrate them. Diego Sánchez in the Española goal was rarely troubled.
Whereas Unión, time and again, were able to play in the space in front and behind of La U’s defence. Jhonny Herrera, as always, had to be alert but he could do little to stop the opening goal, and then was harshly done by for the second when Patricio Rubio fell under very, very, very, very little contact from Herrera to give Española a penalty on the stroke of half-time.
La U defeated Deportivo Lara 2-0 in the Copa Libertadores on Tuesday night, but Josef Yuraszeck came out and said the players are not under pressure to win the Copa Libertadores – a roundabout way of taking pressure off of Franco, who will take time to instil his new way of playing into the squad.
Española, who have bought well, will once again be challengers to the title, especially with La U and Colo Colo (read below) struggling.
A tale of two 4-2-1-3s
Deportes Iquique thoroughly deserved their 2-1 in what was an exciting and open game involving two sides who played an open 4-2-1-3.
Cristián Díaz won his first three points as Iquique manager and it was a wonderful team performance supplanted with some wonderful attacking play involving Manuel Villalobos – scorer of the first goal – Edson Puch and Rodrigo Díaz – purveyor of a wonderful curled effort past Eduardo Lobos.
The two players at the base of the midfield – Víctor Sarabia and Fernando Manríquez – were arguably the star performers as they provided stability in defence and an effective link to midfield.
Colo Colo could only wish for the balance shown by Iquique. They were split; six defensive players and four attacking players.
It was only until they gambled, throwing on as many attacking players that they began to have a sustained period of pressure in and around the final third.
There are clear problems with the system and Labruna took away the players’ day off this week as he looks to go back to the 4-2-2-2 formation that served Los Albos well in the Clausura. As has been mentioned before Labruna was eager to line-up with a back three but issues arose outwith his control to prevent him from doing so.
The introduction of José Pedro Fuenzalida on the right of the front three was meant to give the team a better balance defensively yet they still remain too open, while too much is being asked of Emiliano Vecchio as he is forced deeper and deeper to instigate attacking moves.
Labruna has targeted nine points from the next three games to remain in the hunt for the Torneo Transición.