GOALS! 33 in total were scored in this weekend’s nine games and as ever there was a healthy mixture of golazos, lethal finishing and some downright shoddy defensive performances.
Cobresal managed to get off the mark. But we are not going to talk about that. Universidad de Chile struggled again as they drew 1-1 with Everton. But we are not going to talk about that. And San Marcos de Arica were hammered 4-0 at home by Ñublense just after we praised their defence and organisation so we are definitely not going to talk about that.
Instead we look at Pablo Calandria and O’Higgins, Unión Española and signings, Universidad Católica and winning, Huachipato and their contrast week and Santiago Wanderers and their problem.
Where is the real Calandria?
O’Higgins have been lucky in recent years that they have possessed two quality strikers in Sebastián Pinto (13 goals in 14 games) and Enzo Gutiérrez (34 in 82 games) who earned moves to Bursaspor and Universidad de Chile respectively on the back of their performances for la celeste.
Richard Blanco also appeared to be on his way to becoming a reliable scorer, netting 10 goals in 19 appearances in the 2012 Clausura, Copa Sudamericana and Copa Chile. However, the Venezuelan moved back home and a void needed filling.
Yet the man charged with doing so has been anything but a regular scorer in the past few seasons in Chile – Pablo Calandria. 17 goals in 71 games was all that he mustered for Universidad Católica and Santiago Wanderers. Not only that there was little effectiveness supplied by the Argentine in the other areas of his game.
But there are signs of a significant improvement since moving to O’Higgins. Already he has hit five goals in six games. The latest clinching a dramatic three points as O’Higgins defeated Palestino 3-2 on the day the club and city paid their respects to the 16 lives taken in an accident involving the bus carrying a group of O’Higgins supporters back from a game against Huachipato.
Finding ample room in the box he met Gonzalo Barriga’s cross with a downward header that bounced into the ground leaving Felipe Nuñez helpless in trying to keep out what was an awkward attempt.
There are still signs of incompetence. For example he provided a lovely nutmeg in the second half only for him to contrive to miss the ball completely when he went to attempt a cross, while the first goal came via an own goal under pressure from Calandria. But the replays should he had initially won the header only to head the ball nowhere near the goal but sideways onto the back of the defender.
However, his all round game is good as he leads the line on his own, acting as a focal point in attack. He’s very smooth in dealing with passes, especially to his feet, with his back to goal. He is proving a good foil for Luis Pedro Figueroa and Barriga.
Like most strikers he will be judged on goals and so far he is bettering the golden ratio that all strikers strive for – a goal every other game. His latest makes it three wins in a row for O’Higgins.
There should also be a small mention for Palestino’s Jason Silva who scored two golazos. JS
It was only right to worry about Unión Española after Emilio Hernández, Mauro Díaz and Emiliano Vecchio all departed; three key elements of La Furia Roja’s attacking play in the Clausura. But the way Española have begun the Torneo Transición appears to show that not only have these players been replaced adequately but they have given the team a better balance.
José Luis Sierra and the higher powers at the club have performed admirably in the transfer window not only bringing in Francisco Castro from La U but also Diego Sánchez to replace Eduardo Lobos in goals – keeping clean sheets in his last two outings.
The fans are still to see Christian Cueva – a promising Peruvian – and Argentine Matías Abelairas. That is because talisman Sebastián Jaime and Patricio Rubio – scorers of a brace apiece at the weekend – have continued their fine form of the Clausura, while 18-year-old Oscar Hernández has been promoted to the first team as the team’s enganche.
He is a different type of player to Vecchio. The diminutive Argentine was pace, power, dribbling and tantalising excitement. Hernández is a more traditional number 10. Using an example from Brazil – more Ganso than Oscar. He takes care of the ball; laid-back and patient, playing it simple before providing incision.
Yet he can still conjure up moments of magic similar to the way Vecchio did last year. A ball into feet saw him take one world class touch away from the defender in the box, although he blotted his copybook by going for goal rather than providing a simple assist to round of a wonderful team goal.
As hapless as Audax were, especially in the first half, Española were equally excellent; continuously probing and moving the ball all across the pitch. Both full-backs – Dagoberto Currimilla and Nicolás Berardo – provided width, while Diego Scotti and Gonzalo Villagra were the experience and defensive protection in midfield. JS
UC march on
As alluded to in last week’s ‘Cinco Cosas‘ Universidad Católica should probably be considered favourites for this season’s title and their round four demolition of Antofagasta did nothing to dispel the inevitably of the Torneo Transición becoming their eleventh title.
Since last winning the title in 2010, coincidentally the last time the Primera Division was decided without a playoff, it has been a lean couple of years for los cruzados as they very much lived in the shadow of their fiercest rival, Universidad de Chile, only picking up a Copa Chile title in 2011. Even their impressive run to the semi-finals of the Copa Sudamericana last year, in which they lost to eventual champions São Paulo, didn’t grab the same attention that their rivals’ triumph the year before did.
That run to the semi-finals of the Sudamericana went a long way to saving manager Martín Lasarte his job as the team missed the playoffs. Buoyed by that stay of execution, Lasarte has recruited well in the off season, particularly in the striking department which was an area where they were somewhat lacking in the Clausura season. Carlos Bueno joined from Querétaro via San Lorenzo along with Ismael Sosa from Turkish side, Gaziantepspor. Both strikers both picked up a brace on the weekend meaning that between them they have scored six of Católica’s nine goals so far this season.
Add to this Nicolás Castillo, who starred for Chile in the recent Sudamericano Sub 20 tournament; club favourite Milovan Mirosevic, who is working his way back to full fitness; former Audax Italiano starlet Carlos Villanueva, who recently joined from Al Shabab and you have a pretty formidable looking side on your hands. Combine this with lack of distraction in the form of continental competitions and you pretty much have a recipe for an eleventh title. NZ
Football runs on a different time
It has been quite some week (or so) for the men from Talcahuano. They lost 2-0 at home to O’Higgins, which left them on one point from a possible nine going into their Copa Libertadores match at Porto Alegre giants Gremio. They were not given a hope in hell of coming home to Chile with anything other than a thrashing from the team which possessed Hernan Barcos, Ze Roberto, Elano and of course Eduardo Vargas.
Yet, football proved itself once again as the sport no one can get enough of as los acerceros returned to the south of the country with a 2-1 win and three points thanks to a organised, professional and all round excellent performance.
With players rested, including the hero of Porto Alegre Braian Rodríguez, they faced unbeaten Cobreloa. In the first half they were battered and were lucky to only be trailing by one goal to nil. There seemed to be no interest or desire whatsoever to get back into the game. A stark contrast to the Copa Libertadores, but a familiar performance to what we have witnessed in the league.
A double change saw Huachipato conjure up an equaliser before a further change – Rodríguez on – when trailing 2-1 saw Nicolás Nuñez score twice on the counter-attack as Cobreloa pushed and pushed and pushed some more for the win they clearly wanted from the offset.
But once again Nery Veloso, like he was in Brazil, was exceptional in goal for Huachipato, while Claudio Muñoz and Carlos Labrín were also impressive despite the eventual concession of three goals.
They may have conceded deep into injury time but a 3-3 draw away to one of the best teams of the tournament so far AFTER a trip to Brazil in the Libertadores AND coming from behind twice showed that there may be fight, and quality, left in this side before they finally relinquish their title defence.
Three games in and Santiago Wanderers are still without a point. Ivo Basay returned to the Monumental against a Colo Colo side still struggling to locate the form which saw them top the Clausura heading into the play-offs.
At times it was difficult to fathom how they were not of the mark. They attacked well, while Mauricio Viana in goals was in inspired form – Claudio Muñoz left frustrated on more than one occasion.
But then it became more understandable when witness to Wanderers’ finishing. Luis Salmeron was particularly wasteful in the second half, passing up two gilt edge chances.
Colo Colo had more balance to the team, especially when they were going forward. Labruna had switched to his preferred 3-4-1-2. There was more fluidity in attack, while José Pedro Fuenzalida and Juan Domínguez have given the side width. Their effect was clearly noticeable as Domínguez scored the only goal of the game, heading in Fuenzalida’s cross.
Things are still not okay on and off the pitch in Macul. Wanderers were awarded too many chances for a team wanting to return to the Copa Libertadores with a tournament win. Off the field the players and coaching staff are concerned about a potential leak in the side as the press found out about Labruna’s decision to call off their day off last week.
Things should improve on the field in the near-future as Lucas Domínguez is now signed and was on the bench on Sunday. JS