February 2008. That was the date the last time three Chilean teams lost in the Copa Libertadores in the same week. It is hard to imagine that the trio in action back then (Audax Italiano, Colo Colo and Universidad Católica) would have been as disappointing, sterile and downright rubbish as Universidad de Chile, Huachipato and Deportes Iquique were this week.
Three games played, nine goals conceded, one measly goal scored.
Huachipato were the only team who seemed remotely interested. They at least offered an attacking threat – one more than one occasion – as they fell 3-1 to Caracas. Universidad de Chile and Deportes Iquique deserved everything they got from their respective 3-0 reverses to Olimpia and Vélez Sarsfield.
In 2008 none of the three teams qualified from the group stage.
Olimpia 3-0 Universidad de Chile
As mentioned on these pages earlier in the week football operates on a different time scale. A year can be a very, very long time. Just ask the hinchas of Universidad de Chile.
This time last year – almost a year to the day – La U were obliterating Godoy Cruz on their way to a 5-1 victory that could easily have been greater.
On Tuesday los azules slumped meekly to a 3-0 defeat to Paraguayans Olimpia. And to add some symmetry it could have been more.
Barely 100 seconds had been played in Asunción when Juan Manuel Salgueiro unleashed a thunderous shot into the top corner from 25 yards after possession was cheaply surrendered. Jhonny Herrera, one of the very best in South America, simply had no chance.
It doesn’t take much to anger Herrera but an incident minutes later left him incandescent with rage. A corner was whipped in and Juan Carlos Ferreyra challenged for the ball in the air, bundling the ‘keeper into the net and the ball followed from Richard Ortiz’s head as Herrera was unable to get significant distance on his punch.
Ten minutes in and La U’s game plan was shattered. Under Sampaoli, with the ferocity of their attacking, there was always the possibility expectancy that they would score and keep attacking until they scored again. Except, this La U side is struggling for attacking substance and so it proved.
Olimpia should have been three in front; Herrera gifted the ball straight back to the home side with a poor clearance, but el decano failed to make it count.
In the second half La U were able to hang on longer than the 100 seconds they had in the first half without conceding a goal. Almost twice as long in fact. 175 seconds after the restart a through ball went to Paulo Magalhaes but a heavy touch played in Salustiano Candia to lift past Herrera.
Magalhaes’s and La U’s night was compounded when the Brazilian-born Chilean internationalist was given a straight red for ‘punching’ Richard Ortiz after the pair tangled following a 50/50 with 20 minutes remaining. He wouldn’t be winning any fights at Madison Square Garden punching the way he did.
The rest of the game was routine.
La Tercera produced an interesting article analysing the money received in transfer fees and then reinvested in the team. If anything it highlights the sheer talent that has left the Estadio Nacional. Any team would struggle to deal with the departures of players of the importance of Marcelo Díaz, Eduardo Vargas et al.
After two years of sumptuous football the hinchas better be prepared for a dip.
Huachipato 1-3 Caracas
The past week seemed to have produced the turning point(s) every Huachipato fan, player and staff member was looking for. First, they a conjured a mammoth performance to beat Grêmio in the Brazilians brand-new Arena do Grêmio, before doubling their points tally in the Torneo Trancisión with a draw at Cobreloa after being dominated for long spells. They even impressed Tim Vickery.
However, if you heard a loud thud or felt the ground move on Wednesday evening it was Huachipato crashing back to terra firma, creating a sizeable crater in the process having been dispatched at home by Venezuela’s Caracas – a team Jorge Pellicer described as the Colo Colo of Venezuela.
Los acerceros started on the front foot as Federico Falcone flashed a header over the bar. But that would just about be the apex of the evening.
A straight-forward long ball looked like being dealt with but Claudio Muñoz Camilo misread the bounce letting in the wonderfully named Dany Curé to fire across Nery Veloso who let the ball bounce under his weak dive.
The home side did show ambition as Gabriel Sandoval shot wide and the conqueror of Grêmio, Braian Rodríguez, saw an effort end up the wrong side of the bar.
Just as the game looked like heading into the half-time break with a solitary goal Caracas struck again. And again it was a direct ball that caused problems. This time Muñoz missed his header completely but Veloso was equal to Curé’s stinging drive. Curé steadied himself with the rebound and rolled it to the edge of the box where Ángelo Peña, not breaking stride, stroked the ball with pace into the bottom corner past a helpless Veloso.
The irony in the story is that Huachipato, a direct team by nature, being undone by direct football.
The story continued in the second half. Rómulo Otero won the ball in the air above Miguel Aceval to set up Peña, who composed himself before lifting the ball up and over Veloso from the edge of the box – a finish to rival that in the first half.
El campeon del sur grabbed a consolation when Aceval’s free-kick from the right evaded everyone in the box, nestling in the far corner.
Vélez Sarsfield 3-0 Deportes Iquique
Deportes Iquique’s first journey into the manic world of the Copa Libertadores continues to prove problematic as they paid too much respect to Vélez Sarsfield and paid the price.
Lining up with the elegant Fernando Gago in the heart of midfield Vélez were always going to be favourites, especially at the Estadio José Amalfitani. However, what was most discerning is the way Iquique almost played with the acceptance of defeat.
To say the starting system was defensive was an understatement. Crsitian Grabianksi – playing back in his homeland – acted as a sweeper behind four defenders. But rather than increased number of defenders adding defensive strength they simply got in each other’s way.
This was most evident for the opening goal when three defenders surrounded the ball and Vélez’s Ezequiel Rescaldani. The ball bounced around eventually rolling into the bath of Federico Insúa who neatly dispatched past Rodrigo Narnajo.
It was constant Vélez pressure. Rescaldani fired a warning shot on the turn which Naranjo smartly turned around the post before the same player found was alone in the box; acres of space to collect a pass from Iván Bella, steady himself and slip under Naranjo.
In fairness to Iquique, the reason he was afforded so much time and space was the fact he was three yards offside. How it wasn’t spotted beggars belief. But it seems that is a feeling provoked by many decisions and certain referees in the tournament and on the continent in general.
But it did not matter because Iquique were simply not interested in winning the game, let alone attacking. It is difficult to understand why a team with an abundance of attacking talent fail to utilise it, preferring to attempt to defend for 90 minutes and leave these players isolated.
The second half was redundant for both sides. Iquique changed back to a defensive quartet and offered signs of life in the minutes proceeding half-time. However, it was anything but a concerted effort.
Rescaldani had the best chance of the second half before Fernando Gago saw his free-kick from the left headed into his own net by substitute Cristian Bogado.
An instantly forgettable week for Chilean teams in the Copa Libertadores.