We came into the weekend with five teams still in with a chance of winning the league title and we finished it with two: Unión Española and Universidad Católica.
While they play at the same time on Sunday to see who is crowned Torneo Transición winner, on Saturday O’Higgins and Cobreloa are in action at the same time to see who qualifies for the Copa Sudamericana.
At the bottom nothing is decided at the weekend as Antofagasta survive for another 12 months in the league, while San Marcos’ stay is cut short. Meanwhile Cobresal will enter a play-off against a team from Primera B as they have one final chance to save themselves
*But there is still one week to go you’re thinking. Correct. But instead of Cinco Cosas next week it will be an analysis of the league winner.
The two sides to Católica
The second clásico universitario threw up one of the most important clashes since arguably the 2011 Clausura play-off semi-final when Universidad de Chile emerged victorious.
On Sunday it was a case of win and you will go to the final day showdown; lose and any hope of the league is all but over; draw and it would need a miracle on the final day.
Chuck in the recent Copa Chile which Universidad de Chile won 2-1 thanks to a stoppage time Juan Ignacio Duma goal with Católica playing the majority of the game with 10 men and you had everything needed for an intense build-up.
What transpired was not one but two wins for Universidad Católica against a hapless La U side who have been treading a fine line between disaster and success all season; every defeat is followed by the questioning of Darío Franco’s future, while every win takes them three points closer to the title.
But there would be no three points on Sunday as in each half at the Estadio San Carlos de Apoquindo they were defeated by a different UC. In the first half it was the new-age Martín Lasarte side – the one which is playing on the front foot. Half-time saw possession statistics that were equal but in terms of dominance it was UC. With Tomás Costa at the base of the midfield it allowed Milovan Mirosevic, Michael Ríos and Fernando Cordero to support the strike partnership of Ismael Sosa and Nicolás Castillo.
Ríos and Mirosevic went close either side of the former’s opening goal which saw Sosa pull wide, chip a cross onto the head of Mirosevic who nodded it down for Castillo to play in Ríos to rip a shot past Jhonny Herrera.
Other than Chalres Aránguiz’s long-range free-kick La U offered little; Costa thwarted Gustavo Lorenzetti while Ríos won the battle against Eugenio Mena.
In the second half los cruzados produced a performance reminiscent of their Copa Sudamericana towards the end of 2012. They defended deep, retained a solid shape, frustrated the opposition and were clinical in attack. Sosa took advantage of a great pass from Castillo and hesitant defending from Herrera and young centre back Cerezo to double UC’s lead with Hans Martínez adding a third to earn the home side a comprehensive and well deserved win, which increased further speculation over the future of Franco.
But more pertinently it gives us a Sunday night showdown for the title. UC travel to San Marcos.
Luck on their side
What is football without clichés? We all tend to moan about them but at the same time use them. So here goes. José Luis Sierra’s men produced a result that is a mark of champions. They were the first of the five championship chasing teams to kick-off and for nearly 70 minutes it looked as if Palestino had blown the title race wide open.
Diego Chaves and Lucas Simon proved a handful for Matías Navarette and Jorge Ampuero, while the missing presence of both Diego Scotti and Gonzalo Villagra was highlighted by Sergio Lopéz’s first half performance where el tricolor’s primary attacking midfielder opened the scoring and was a constant threat. Chaves’s physicality was evident in the opening goal with the normally reliable Diego Sánchez tentative to reach a cross and the ball fell to Lopéz to tuck away. He would later pick up an injury in another clash with Chaves.
*Another cliché alert* Any champion has to have luck. As Ally McCoist frequently said on one of the FIFA games a few years back ‘you’re sometimes better lucky than good’. Luck is what they had as they chased the win against a deep and resilient Palestino back line in the second half. UE left themselves open to the direct attacks time and time again, and substitute goalkeeper Raul Olivares was in outstanding form, the pick of the saves being the one he tipped onto the post from César Valenzuela’s long-range effort.
Up the other end poor goalkeeping from Felipe Núñez and a lucky deflection off a defender saw Gustavo Canales equalise and captain Jorge Ampuero get a crucial winner respectively.
As mentioned in recent weeks UE have found it tougher against structured and well organised teams who are comfortable defending. It is Colo Colo for them on the final day at the Estadio Santa Laura and anyone who has watched los albos will know they are neither structured nor well organised.
But if he is still here at the start of next term it is something José Luis Sierra will have to look at.
Age is just a number for some
Everton can take pride in their performances in their first season back in the Primera División since 2010, confirming their place as the top performing of the three promoted sides with one game to play. They currently top the ‘other 11’ as we discount the top five who have been contesting their own mini-league.
They have had their troubling moments, most notably a run of five defeats in six games, which included a 5-0 and 3-0 defeat to Unión Española and Colo Colo respectively. But they have been offset by a draw with Universidad de Chile, a win over O’Higgins and victory in the derby with Santiago Wanderers.
Their football has been relatively reactive. In nine of their last 10 games they have had a worse passing success rate than their opponents. They are not a team to control possession and knock the ball around the back four; what some may call sterile possession.
They defend deeper than most teams and when they get the ball they are effective on the counter-attack. It was very noticeable in their win against Santiago Wanderers and it was noticeable again against Audax Italiano – a game they won 3-1. None more so than in the opening goal where it took them four passes, from one end of the pitch to the other, to net.
When you don’t have much possession and tend to ‘invite’ pressure you need a good goalkeeper between the sticks. There has been some excellent performances put in by veteran players in the league this year and 36-year-old Gustavo Dalsasso put in another on Friday night with a number of exceptional saves with the one standing out a point blank push round the post from a Sebastián Saez as Dalsasso came one way and the ball was going the other. There was a look of shock in Saez’s face in the aftermath. Only a poor late punch to allow Bryan Carrasco to score let his overall performance down.
This season has been a major success for the ruleteros considering they had one 17 game tournament to consolidate their place for a year-long stay starting in July.
Goals win you games (another cliche!)
San Marcos de Arica have been fighting a losing battle for weeks now. They were finally put out of their misery on Saturday as Antofagasta dispatched them with a 3-1 win, which in turn secured the pumas place in the new league starting in July as Cobresal were defeated by Colo Colo and will now enter a play-off against the losers of the Primera B promotion play-off between Universidad de Concepción and Curicó Unido.
We talked about San Marcos last week and their predicament, but they simply don’t have the attacking quality of Antofagasta. San Marcos have only conceded one goal more but Antofagasta have scored 11 more.
The pumas have scored at least three goals in a match five times in 16 matches with Elizondo netting a brace – the fourth time this year he has scored more than once in the same game – taking him level with Sebastián Saez at the top of the goal scoring charts.
It is a pity Cobresal could not continue their survival feats against Colo Colo which would have set up a showdown with Antofagasta at the weekend. But the two early goals at the Estadio Monumental, coupled with Antofagasta’s win means they can not catch this weekend’s opponents in the Coeficiente de Rendimiento.
Copa Sudamericana showdown
It’s not all about the title this weekend. The Copa Sudamericana place is still up for grabs. Colo Colo (for their Clausura 2012 performance) and Universidad de Chile (for their Copa Chile victory) have already confirmed their places in the tournament which takes place later in the year. They will be joined by which ever team out of Española and Católica finishes second and the team which finishes highest out of O’Higgins and Cobreloa.
Cobreloa were the first team to be ‘knocked out’ of the league despite their come from behind victory over Unión La Calera, due to Española’s defeat of Palestino. On the field it has gone very well for the loínos in comparison to the 12th-placed finish in last year’s Clausura. They have lost only one of 16 games; they possess the joint-third best attack; and have the joint-second most parsimonious defence.
But draws, of which there have been seven, have hampered them as well as off field issues as controversial manager Marco Antonio Figueroa has clashed with both directors and players. He is credited by some in Chile as a short-term manager. He does very well to start with but his controversial nature begins to affect the club and results.
However there is no doubt they are one of the more exciting teams in the country and if he returns the club to continental action he will have succeeded in a job well done. Whether he’ll still be around when the new season kicks off in July is a different matter. He has been linked with the Colo Colo job but appears to be third in the pecking order.
O’Higgins go into the game on the back of a disappointing 2-1 defeat to Deportes Iquique – a result that was etched all over Eduardo Berizzo’s face as he saw his side’s title hopes slip away.
The normally reliable Mariano Uglessich had a day to forget comically slicing in the second goal after a bobble and ending any hopes of a come back by getting himself stupidly sent off.
O’Higgins welcome Unión La Calera, while Cobreloa host Santiago Wanderers on Saturday (9pm BST). Both are level on 31 points but Cobreloa enjoy a better goal difference, +13 to +10.