Copa Libertadores 2014: La U win, O’Higgins draw

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It was a week of mixed fortunes for the two Chilean sides playing in the Copa Libertadores with Universidad de Chile requiring a late goal to secure all three points whilst O’Higgins were unlucky not to grab all three points in a spirited performance in Argentina.

Universidad de Chile scraped past Uruguayans Sporting Defensor at the Estadio Nacional to provide themselves with a solid platform to begin their Copa Libertadores campaign. Gustavo Lorenzetti’s 83rd minute goal was enough to secure all three points for los azules and see them move level on points with Peruvians Real Garcilaso at the top of Group 5.

La U were heavy favourites heading into the match, although their superiority was not immediately apparent as both sides played out an extremely lacklustre first half. Manager Cristían Romero’s half time team talk clearly had the desired effect, as the home side began to dominate possession and create the better of the chances. The first real opening came in the 52nd minute as Patricio Rubio was played clean through on goal, only to be stopped in his tracks by the linesman’s flag . Replays suggested it was a marginal decision.

Whilst Universidad de Chile were enjoying the lion’s share of play they still looked vulnerable on the counter. However Pepe Rojas put in an assured defensive display in what was a landmark game; his 412th appearance for the club, surpassing the legendary Leonel Sánchez.

The contest was settled seven minutes from time when the Defensor back line cleared Rubio’s corner into the path of Lorenzetti, who rifled a beautifully struck half-volley from 18 yards beyond the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Martín Campaña. However, the victory was marred by the actions of a single Universidad de Chile fan who lit a flare in celebration of the winning goal, a stupid decision considering the club has already be fined $10,000 by CONMEBOL and issued with a warning for use of pyrotechnics during their play-off match against Guaraní.

Next up were O’Higgins as they battled to a hard-fought draw in Buenos Aires against a strong Lanús side. The team from Rancagua were returning to the Copa Libertadores for the first time in 30 years, however they more than held their own in what will be one of the toughest away fixtures in the group stages.

O’Higgins goalkeeper Paulo Garcés seemed nervous to begin with as he almost spilt Víctor Ayala’s eighth minute free kick into his own net, but his defenders were on hand to scramble to ball away.Pablo Hernandez went close to putting the Chilean side ahead two minutes later as he saw his shot cleared off the line by Lanús defender Carloz Izquierdoz.

Garcés appeared to eventually get rid his nerves as he pulled off a terrific save to prevent Diego González’ 15th minute header from nestling in the top corner. The game began to heat up midway through the first half as both sets of players took exception to a few late challenges that the referee did very little about. The impressive Hernandez had the last chance of the half as he cut inside and fired a left-footed shot from outside the area, only the be thwarted by a smart save by Lanús goalkeeper Agustín Marchesín.

O’Higgins began the second half as they ended the first, in the ascendancy, and Pablo Calandria missed the best chance of the game as he shot high and wide after being played through one-on-one. Hernandez continued to shine and was getting a battering from the Lanús defenders, in particular a terrible groin-high challenge from Diego González and a stamp from Leandro Somoza which the referee only deemed worthy of yellows.

Hernandez was rewarded for his fine performance with the man of the match award and O’Higgins will be delighted with the team display and confident of getting all three points when the sides meet again in Chile.

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