Cinco Cosas – Campeonato 2013 Week Six

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The Primera has found its stride in terms of goals, fascinating encounters and controversial incidents with certain games containing a mixture of all three.

Cobreloa versus Universidad Católica was one such match where there was the sublime to the ridiculous  Cobreloa’s win tightened the league table, which sees three points separating nearly half of the division from the top down to eighth.

Huachipato got their first win of the season, while Cobrelsa and Palestino continue to search for that illusive three points. Unsurprisingly Palestino were involved in the only dull game of the weekend as they drew 0-0 with Santiago Wanderers. But don’t worry that’s all you will hear about that game.

The influence of Española’s full-backs

In Universidad de Chile’s Copa Sudamericana winning campaign their performances drew comparisons to Barcelona. But under José Luis Sierra, Unión Española are a much closer resemblance.

The defence plays high up the park, the centre-backs split wide at goal kicks and the full-backs play as wing-backs. They make the pitch as big as possible and look to control the game.

Prior to Friday evening’s game Ñublense’s manager Carlos Rojas stated that Española are always the protagonists. Without question los hispanos are one of, if not the most expansive and exciting sides in Chile.

Ñublense played in a similar way to the way they played against O’Higgins the week previously. But not because they were down to ten men but because they knew if they were too open they would be exploited time and again – you only have to ask Audax Italiano or Universidad de Chile.

They played a perfect first half. Eradicating the space between midfield and defence, Mathías Riquero and Jonathan Cisternas patrolled and acted as a base for Juan Gutiérrez and Emanuel Croce to support Javier Grbec. The first goal was a direct counter-attack. Giovini kicked long, Croce controlled a wonderful first time pass into Grbec and the rangy striker returned the ball for Croce to net. The second was even more impressive as Española awaited Cisternas to shoot from a free-kick the calm and composed midfielder slid a pass down the side of the wall for Gutierrez to net. Simple, yet wonderful, imagination.

The second half would prove to be all about Española, and in particular Dagoberto Currimilla and Mario Larenas. The two-full backs were playing high in the first half but more focus was on getting the ball to them quicker. In the first half Española were often trying too many adventurous passes through compact central areas and Christian Cueva was not getting any space.

Cueva drifted left in the second half looking for space and linked well with Larenas, the latter setting up Diego Scotti’s goal before Cueva’s corner minutes later was headed in by Sebastián Jaime. Española should have won it when Currimilla sent in a cross but Jaime’s header lacked power.

The full-backs pushing high leaves Española vulnerable to the counter-attack and the two centre-backs isolated but with both wide forwards wanting to move infield they provide vital width.

Cobreloa’s 3-3-1-3 prevails on Bielsa Day

With his smart shirt and trousers, Arnold Schwarzenegger glasses and depilated head Figueroa and Marcelo Bielsa share little resemblance in terms of features and style. Yet, they do share an affection for the 3-3-1-3 system.

As always Zonal Marking describes the formation best. There is however subtle differences. The main one being top goal scorer Sebastián does not tend to stretch the game on the left, instead he is more interested in moving into central areas to support striker Miguel Ángel Cuellar – it is unsurprising given that Pol is naturally a striker.

His bundled goal – perhaps the scrappiest you are likely to see for Cobreloa’s second equaliser – against Universidad Católica saw him in the six yard box.

However, it was the formation’s similarities that saw Cobreloa enjoy freedom down the wings – especially the right. The combination of Bryan Cortés and Francisco Pizarro was a constant threat to UC down the right hand side, constantly creating overloads against Fernando Cordero and dragging Enzo Andía to wider positions.

The duo combined for the equaliser, which ex-Católica man Pizarro netted, while Cortés created two more.

On the opposite wing Fernando Meneses had little opportunity to influence the game.

Bielsa also likes playing one more defender than the opposition have strikers and likewise Figueroa had three defenders against two strikers, yet they were unable to prevent the opening goal. You can wax lyrical about long-range efforts, delicate dinks and thunderous volleys but a good old fashioned striker partnership linking up is always nice to see.

Sixto Peralta, who struggled to influence the match on a regular basis, played a ball into Ismael Sosa with Carlos Bueno stepping over the pass before collecting Sosa’s lay-off and then playing a through ball for Sosa to net.

Instead of going on to control the match los Cruzados sat back and invited pressure. They did manage to go back in front but three goals in the last 10 minutes – including two in stoppage time – so Cobreloa pick up the three points in a controversial (keep reading) encounter.

The third goal was extra special as Alejandro Vásquez moved infield from his wing-back position to curl a sumptuous effort past Cristopher Toselli.

How to get around a sending off

Okay, so we are going against our rules of having more than one of the Cinco Cosas on the one game, but we feel these are special circumstances.

As you will have already read, Cobreloa were exciting and enthralling against Universidad Católica in what is arguably the game of the season so far. And to add to its mystique it saw a bizarre incident unfold towards the end of the match.

Diego Silva was shown a second yellow card five minutes from time with the game at 3-2. Scorer of the third goal, Sebastián Pol, was substituted for Miguel Sanhueza. However, for 15 seconds Cobreloa carried on with 11 men as Sanhueza entered the field and Pol failed to exit as shown by this picture from La Tercera.

The incident had little effect on the grand scheme of things but adds to an already quirkier than normal tournament in Chile.

As of yet no decision has taken place as to what punishment to hand out, if any, but referee Carlos Ulloa has come in for much criticism. Yet, the substitute incident has taken on lesser significance than the clear penalty that should have been awarded to UC with the game at 2-1 when Cristiá Suárez blocked a cross with an outstretched arm as he slid into block.

It has not been a pleasant month of so for Chilean referees with Enrique Osses ridiculed for failing to initially send off Nacional defender Alejandro Lembo after he picked up two bookings. Osses then refused to give Barcelona of Ecuador a penalty when Damián Díaz was clearly brought down in the box in stoppage time.

Chile’s Competitiveness

One of the reasons for the Torneo Transición is so that the league changes to a similar time frame to the European and Argentine football ‘season’ rather than year. And with the new set up there is unlikely to be any play-offs; 18 teams playing each other twice.

But before we get to that there is the Torneo 2013 – each team playing everyone once and the team at the top claiming the title.

Play-offs are exciting as we witnessed only a few months ago when Huachipato defeated Unión Española. If it wasn’t for the play-offs el campeon del sur would not have triumphed as Colo Colo sat atop of the Clausura table, while Universidad de Chile strolled to the overall league table. In fact you need to go back to the 2009 Apertura – seven tournaments ago – for the last time a team (Unión Española) out with the tres grandes finished at the summit of the regular tournament before play-offs commenced.

It is thought that the removal of the play-offs will work in the bigger teams’ favour – maing the rich richer and all that.

However, a glance at the league table six games in to the Toreno 2013 may tell a different story. A meagre three points separates eight teams – almost half of the league.

Okay, Universidad Católica are in first position – and deservedly so – but Universidad de Chile and Colo Colo are languishing in seventh and eight position respectively.

Unión Española were expected to challenge, while Eduardo Berizzo’s O’Higgins are a respected and interesting team. They are in second and third due to having scored less than UC. Behind them are the only two remaining undefeated teams, Cobreloa and Everton.

Cobreloa are expected to be in the upper echelons, but Everton have just been promoted. Under the radar, and deserving of more focus from this site, are Unión La Calera who are also on 12 points.

Who knows what will happen in the next 11 weeks and even more so over a 34 game campaign, but at the moment the Primera Divisón has to be commended for its competitiveness and sheer unpredictability.

La Copa Conundrum

Combining the rigours of competing in South America’s continental competitions with domestic duties is always a difficult task. For teams like Huachipato and Iquique, small clubs that punch well above their weight, their involvement in the Copa Libertadores is severely impacting on their domestic form.

After stellar seasons in 2012, six weeks into the current season they have only won match apiece . It took until the round just completed for Huachipato to pick up their first win of the season and that was against Iquique. The match was an entertaining one, with Huachipato clearly looking the better team in a match where both teams looked to get one over their fellow Libertadores competitor.

Competing in the Libertadores provides an interesting conundrum for these two teams whilst they still have a chance to qualify for the knockout stages of the competition. Sacrifice their league form for an unlikely chance of continental glory or try to burn the midnight oil and compete in both competitions. At this stage it is quite obvious that they are quite clearly sacrificing their domestic form as they simply don’t have the squad depth of the big three or maybe a Unión Española to compete on both fronts.

This week is looming as an important one for both teams in the Libertadores with important away trips on the cards. Like in the league both Iquique and Huachipato have only one win apiece after three rounds and face daunting trips to Emelec and Fluminense respectively. A loss for either in their tough groups will pretty much put paid to any hopes of advancement. If not, the copa conundrum continues for yet another few weeks. NZ

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