Universidad de Chile’s season went from bad to worse as they were beaten 1-0 at home by nine-man Ecuadorian side Emelec in the opening round of Copa Libertadores fixtures. The Apertura champions have endured a torrid start to the domestic season, winning just one of their opening seven matches and finding themselves second-bottom.
Los azules also have the joint second worst defensive record after seven rounds and their defensive frailties were immediately obvious in the opening minutes, nervously conceding and unconvincingly defending early Emelec corners.
Despite starting on the back foot it was La U who had the first clear opening of the match just five minutes in. Defender Paulo Magalhães failed to make the most of some static Emelec defending, placing his header from a pinpoint Gonzalo Espinoza cross wide of the post from five yards out.
Emelec’s best chance of the half fell to Luis Escalada on thirty-four minutes after he was put clear through on goal by Miler Bolaños, but his finish didn’t trouble Johnny Herrera in goal and comfortably cleared the crossbar.
The home side then had a strong shout for a penalty turned down in the final seconds of the first half as Gustavo Lorenzetti appeared to be fouled just before shooting. Argentinian referee Silvio Trucco waved away the appeals and booked Lorenzetti for his subsequent overzealous protestations, a decision which the players in blue argued long after the half time whistle had been blown.
Emelec started the second half in the ascendancy and Bolaños had a goal correctly ruled out for offside on fifty-eight minutes after he was set free following a neat interchange on the edge of the box.
The ever-threatening Bolaños finally got his goal just after the hour mark when Angel Mena found him just inside the penalty area. Mena’s subsequent movement drew La U captain Jose Rojas away from goal, allowing Bolaños to easily cut inside Cristian Suarez and drill his shot past Herrera.
Universidad de Chile then had wonderful chance to equalise after seventy-eight minutes when Espinoza’s free kick was met by Suarez three yards from goal. The defender’s poor touch fortuitously fell at the feet of Gustavo Canales who failed to convert and fired straight at Emelec goalkeeper Esteban Dreer from point-blank range.
The away side were reduced to ten men nine minutes before the end, Fernando Gimenez’s petulant kick earning him his second booking. Their task of holding on became even harder when John Narvaez was also second off for a second bookable offence after eighty-eight minutes.
La U’s last chance of the match fell to centre back Osvaldo Gonzalez two minutes into injury time. Lorenzetti’s clever cutback picked him out just outside the six yard box but the defender blazed the ball high into the Estadio Nacional stands.
Next up for Universidad de Chile is a daunting trip to Brazil where they will face SC Internacional and former hero Charles Aranguiz.