Santiago were the winners this week with five of the six capital-based sides all winning. A clean sweep was impossible due to Colo Colo playing Palestino. Los albos won taking them up to sixth, while Universidad de Chile could go fourth if they win their game in hand against Santiago Wanderers on Wednesday. Both however are still unable to catch a glimpse of rivals Universidad Católica as they run away at the summit of the league table.
Everton continue their excellent acclimatisation to the league, while Deportes Iquique and Huachipato still struggle to juggle domestic and continental competitions – falling short in both.
However, Cinco Cosas looks at O’Higgins’ lack of talismanic figure, a veteran goalkeeper still agile and cat-like plus wins for the tres grandes
In need of unpredictability
Provincial teams in Chile all but have to accept that when a player puts in starring performances it will arouse the attentions of the tres grandes. And O’Higgins, as we mentioned last week, have seen some significant departures. Ramon Fernández was the one during the recent transfer window as he moved to Universidad de Chile – following the path Enzo Gutiérrez took mid-way through 2012.
However, Eduardo Berizzo and la celeste have coped admirably. After an opening day defeat they won three on the bounce in the league to rise to second in the Torneo Transición. A win against Ñublense, who themselves have won two on the bounce, would have taken them to the summit for at least 48 hours.
Yet, it would prove a frustrating 90 minutes. After Gonzalo Barriga put the away side ahead with a powerful header from Yerson Opazo’s stunning cross and Adolfo Lima’s reckless sending off, it looked elementary that O’Higgins would pick up the three points. But Javier Grbec tapped in for his fourth of the season minutes after the red card and that’s when los diablos rojos began to frustrate Berizzo’s side.
O’Higgins naturally play with a lot of width. Their right side is particularly strong as Opazo and Luis Pedro Figueroa have struck up a fine relationship; the latter is more than capable down the line or moving inside.
With the extra man they were able to go from side to side, both full-backs providing extra support. Ñublense were happy to defend narrow; Juan Gutiérrez and Croce dropped back to make a midfield four, while simultaneously breaking well when the home side could attack. Sebastián Monetecinos and José Rojas had the beating of Pablo Calandria as the ball was crossed in.
When it became predictable they were unable to summon the unpredictability which Fernández had given them. An exciting, creating, dribbling talent, Fernández may have been the man to break down the home side’s rearguard. Instead Rodrigo Rojas has taken up the mantle having been moved further forward.
The Paraguayan is a good footballer, but relies more on energy and dynamism than the technical talents required to break down deep and narrow defences. O’Higgins relied on long-range efforts through Barriga, Braulio Leal and Rojas who saw a shot cannon off the bar.
Boris Sagredo, a wide man, was brought on to try and conjure up a spark he is more than capable of producing from a central area.
Yet, he was sent off and it looked like it would help la celeste as the game opened up but they were unable create a meaningful chance to collect the three points.
34 years young
There are some transfer rumours that, almost instinctively, force you to raise your eyebrow. One of those in recent months has been Nicolás Peric to Colo Colo. That’s 34-year-old Nicolás Peric.
However, the goalkeeper then goes on to produce a performance that has you thinking ‘that’s why!’
As Rangers defended their way to a 2-2 home draw against Cobreloa Peric was in unbeatable form. Throughout the game he commanded his box, held on to dangerous efforts from outside the box and caught every cross he could.
But what took it onto the next level was one of the best double saves this writer has seen. Sebastián Pol was played in to a position on the right hand side of the box and instead of shooting he opted to square a pass for what looked a certain goal for Bryan Cortés, but out of nowhere Peric, as if two decades younger, sprung to his right and kept the ball out before it found its way back to Cortés, and again Peric was down to his right to maintain Rangers’ lead.
Describing it really doesn’t do it justice.
After going a goal ahead early in the first half Rangers looked to defend their lead. Cobreloa hit back in the second half but were only level for a matter of minutes when Rangers, still in defensive mode, broke away with Juan Lorca to net what looked like being the winner.
A corner was swept in and Pol stooped to head in a stoppage time equaliser, but this time high to his right Peric scooped the ball away from the line. However, the referee deemed that Gervasio Núñez had pulled Pol’s shirt and the striker netted a penalty.
Peric deserved to win but Cobreloa did not deserve to lose. Los miñeros were always on the front foot and the influence of substitute Leandro Gracián helped Cobreloa break down a stuffy defence. If only O’Higgins had the option of someone like Gracián.
It is now more than 800 minutes since Carlos Muñoz netted for Colo Colo. That’s more than 13 hours. So to say he is out of form in front of the 7.32m by 2.44m white posts is an understatement.
When strikers find themselves in these streaks – even the very best do – they become frustrated, leading to ambitious desperate long-range shots when a pass would be a better option – this happened against Palestino – and the longer it goes on the more confidence escapes them. So when presented with a chance it is tamely given to the goalkeeper or wildly fired over the bar – this happened against Palestino.
Prior to the Audax Italiano game in November when the barren run began Muñoz had notched 13 goals in 21 games – the goals spread over 13 separate games.
However, during that run there has been a goal for Chile against Haiti and there has been interest from Italian and Spanish clubs with Celta Vigo having sent representatives to watch the ex-Santiago Wanderers forward.
They were supposedly present in the Estadio Nacional on Saturday evening as los albos defeated Palestino 2-1.
They may have seen a striker lacking confidence when faced with a responsibility to score, but Muñoz’s all-round play was impressive. Not only did he set up José Pedro Fuenzalida with a raking 40 yard-plus cross-field pass for the wing-back to coolly volley in, but he was very neat in possession in and around the box. He still had the confidence to play a number of first time passes, including cute around the corner passes or flicks.
That old adage of a ball bouncing off his back side into the net should prompt another goal scoring run is pertinent.
Both of Colo Colo’s goal scorers – Fuenzalida and Emiliano Vecchio – put in fine performances. The duo linked for what turned out to be the winner from Vecchio. His pass released the energetic Fuenzalida who stood up a cross for Vecchio to nod in.
With Fuenzalida on one side and Juan Domínguez on the other Vecchio should thrive in sending darting passes behind opposition defences for the wing-backs to race on to.
Put any striker in the world in this Universidad Católica side and they would score goals. Strikers thrive on chances and right now Católica’s are having the time of their life.
UC emphatically went back to the top of the Torneo Transición table with a 4-0 defeat of Unión La Calera. And it could easily have been six, seven or even eight.
There is a lovely balance about Martín Lasarte’s side. Domínguez and Fuenzalida were mentioned previously, and the width they provide Colo Colo. Those two are full-backs moved higher. Los Cruzados have two genuine attacking wide players in Fernando Meneses and Cordero dropped deeper.
It was the former, however, who put in a starring performance laying on three assists.
The first saw him tie his opponent in knots before whipping in a cross for Enzo Andía to easily open the scoring. The second saw Meneses receive a pass on the counter-attack from Peralta, after the ex-Ipswich Town player’s smart turn, drive forward before playing in Ismael Sosa at the second attempt. His triumvirate of assists was completed when, on the counter-attack again, he raced forward and played in a low cross which Sosa netted after a smart step over from Carlos Bueno.
Tomás Costa received the man of the match award but Meneses looks to have been liberated and is finally returning to the player los Cruzados fans enjoyed before a transfer dispute stalled his career after a promising 2011.
It appeared the 27-year-old was on the verge of a move to La U. But Católica officials were not keen on the idea and Meneses did not seem keen on playing for UC so for half of 2012 he played with Peruvians Alianza Lima. He reappeared at the Estadio San Carlos last year but his struggles were similar to that of Cato’s.
He now looks reinvigorated and positive; stocky but fast he is always looking to drive forward, his pace and acceleration mixed with the odd feint and drop of a shoulder make him an opposing full-back’s nightmare. He has even played himself into the thoughts of Jorge Sampaoli.
Those in attendance were also able to witness the return of Carlos Villanueva to Chile and Nicolás Castillo to the first team fold. The duo combined for the fourth goal as the former delightfully set up the latter with a dink over the defence while looking in the opposite direction.
It has been a troubling start to life as Universidad de Chile manager for Darío Franco, but the first positive signs were in abundance late on Sunday as La U ran six past San Marcos de Arica with the visitors notching a single goal.
La U back amongst the goals
La U switched to a 4-3-3 or 4-3-1-2 – similar to what el chuncho played like under Sampaoli at times with Ramon Fernández acting as the central attacker but dropping off the front line and the wider forwards, Juan Ignacio Duma and Sebastián Ubilla moving in field.
The opening goal came from a penalty as Ubilla drove into the box from a wide right position and was felled, while the second saw Fernández pick up possession deep, drive on and fire a shot past Reinoso with the help of a slight deflection.
La U were dominant in the first half yet only went into the break with a one goal advantage due to Mauricio Segovia’s injury-time goal.
The second half was all about La U as Duma scored twice, reminding Franco that he was an impressive performer before the New Year, and there were starring cameos from Cesá Cortés, Isaac Díaz and Nicolas Maturana.
Another key aspect of the game was the impact of ‘Prince’ Charles Aránguiz. He struggled to adapt initially to Marcelo Díaz’s departure half way through 2012, but showed signs that he is looking forward to the added expectations and responsibility as he put in a typical all-action performance full of energy, driving runs and his wonderful appreciation for the ball and space.