Copa Libertadores 2014: La U & Union win, O’Higgins lose

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The latest week of Copa Libertadores action saw two out of the three Chilean sides pick up wins with both Universidad de Chile and Unión Española securing the three points whilst O’Higgins could not recover from an early goal barrage and suffered their first loss of the campaign.

A Johnny Herrera penalty was enough to see Universidad de Chile edge past Peruvians Real Garcilaso and make them favourites to qualify from Group 5. The final score flattered the visitors as La U boasted a huge 70% possession at the end of the game and the only surprise was that the final margin was not greater.

The home side’s first real chance came inside the opening ten minutes when Ramon Fernandez’ shot from outside the area beat Garcilaso goalkeeper Diego Carranza but struck the angle of the frame and went out for a goal kick.

The crossbar would come to Garcilaso’s rescue again five minutes before half time, on this occasion denying Enzo Gutierrez after he had met Osvaldo Gonzalez’ cross with his head. In the final act of the first half, some comical Garcilaso defending following a corner allowed Rodgrigo Mora space to shoot from eight yards out, but he hit the subsequent shot straight at Carranza.

It took until just after the hour mark for Universidad de Chile to make the break through, Carlos Flores tripping Rodrigo Mora inside the area to concede the penalty. With Gutierrez going off injured and Isaac Diaz and Mora both recently missing penalties, it was up go goalkeeper Herrera to convert the spot kick and he did so with ease, drilling the ball to Carranza’s right and sending him the wrong way.

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Despite a host of chances, including striking the woodwork three times, La U were unable to extend their lead, although Garcilaso never looked like troubling Herrera once he was back inside his own penalty area.

The three points leave Universidad de Chile topping the group on nine points with third placed Cruzeiro on four, meaning los azules need just two draws from their remaining two matches to secure qualification into the knockout stages.

Three goals in a mad opening ten minutes saw O’Higgins fall to a surprise defeat away at Paraguayans Cerro Porteño. In the reverse fixture a week earlier, O’Higgins surrendered a two-goal lead and had to settle for a point and they were looking to make amends this week by collecting all three.

However, the Chileans were caught flatfooted by their hosts who took the lead after just two minutes. Oscar Romero’s searching ball into the box was poked into the path of Angel Romero whose shot hit the bar, but Daniel Guiza was on hand to convert the rebound.

Six minutes later and Cerro Porteño had their second, as O’Higgins failed to deal with another long ball over the top and Angel Romero went down under a clumsy challenge by Nicolas Vargas to win a penalty. Midfielder Julio Dos Santos stepped up and slotted the spot kick to Paulo Garces’ right, comfortably out of the ‘keepers reach.

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Just two minutes afterwards, O’Higgins were handed a route back into the game as Luiz Cardozo handled the ball in the area to conceded a penalty that Pablo Calandria duly converted, sending Cerro Porteño goalkeeper Roberto Fernandez the wrong way.

It was the home side who looked most likely to score the game’s fourth goal and the next real opening came just before half time, Angel Romero squaring the ball across the six yard box only for Mariano Uglessich to get the faintest of touches and prevent Guiza from having a tap in.

O’Higgins coach Manuel Berizzo made changes 20 and 15 minutes from times, bringing on Juan Cobo and Diego Chavez respectively, but the away side never really looked like getting an equaliser. The defeat ended a miserable week for O’Higgins in the Copa Libertadores in which they were looking to pick up four points but ended up with just one. They now sit in third place on five points, two behind their Argentinian victors in first, but still have a good chance to qualify should they claim four points from their remaining two matches; away to Deportivo Cali and at home against Lanus.

A solitary Gustavo Canales goal was enough to see Union Española edge past San Lorenzo at the Santa Laura and put them in a commanding position to qualify for the knockout stages of the Copa Libertadores.

Union Española were looking to add to the hard-fought point they had earned in Argentina in the reverse fixture just a week previously and they started this match as they ended the last, in the ascendancy.

Despite all their pressure, it took until the 39th for the opening chance . The ever impressive Cristian ‘Pochi’ Chavez picked the ball up just outside the area and lifted the ball brilliantly with the outside of his boot into the path off Nicolas Berrardo, whose first time volley from the corner of the 18 yard box dipped viciously over the crossbar.

Chavez was again involved in his side’s next chance which came just four minutes later, the midfielder cutting inside onto his favoured right foot and unleashing a powerful drive which San Lorenzo goalkeeper Sebastian Torrico tipped over the bar at full stretch.

 Union Española finally took the lead in the 67th minute and it came as no surprise that it was Chavez who provided the assist, crossing the ball into the centre of the penalty area for Gustavo Canales who made the most of some questionable San Lorenzo defending to nod his side in front.

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In truth, the home side should have made the victory a lot more comfortable but a combination of poor finishing and last ditch defending meant they had to settle for just the one goal. The win sees Union Española climb into second place, just one point behind leaders Botafogo and two clear of third and fourth placed sides Independiente del Valle and San Lorenzo, with the Chileans facing a tough trip to Brazil next.

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