The 0-0 isn’t the most popular score line in Chile’s Primera División, but thanks to some wonderful goalkeeping from Paulo Garcés and Cristopher Toselli, coupled with poor finishing the ‘Clásicoo Universitario’ between Universidad de Chile and Universidad Católica served up a goal less draw. The result leaves Católica seeking qualification to the play-offs going into the final week.
The game can be filed into the ‘exciting 0-0’ category as two sides with contrasting styles of play came together at a sun-baked Estadio Nacional; proactive v reactive. La U looked to pass their way through UC with invention and speed and Los Cruzados settled for a direct approach on the counter-attack.
A lot was being made of the importance of the ‘Clásico Universitario’ in the build-up up to Sunday’s encounter with the match sandwiched between Copa Sudamericana quarter-final ties involving both sides. La U boss Jorge Sampaoli stoked the fire by stating he would rest players against Católica but would not do so against Colo Colo.
Sampaoli stuck to his pre-match comments and rested José Rojas, Charles Aránguiz and Enzo Gutiérrez – even with the suspensions of Jhonny Herrera and Eugenio Mena – ahead of the second-leg against São Paulo.
Martín Lasarte made changes of his own from the side that drew 2-2 in Argentina with Independiente, a game that brought about UC’s most impressive performance under Lasarte. Cristián Álvarez made a much needed return to a defence that is still searching for consistency.
The game started with La U on the front foot. Guillermo Marino in midfield and Gustavo Lorenzetti playing in a central position in attack, La U moved the ball well, using the size of the Nacional’s pitch.
There was a start for talented teenager Juan Ignacio Duma on the left-hand side of attack, and along with Sebastián Ubilla on the right they struggled to make an impact despite Lorenzetti’s scheming. UC were comfortable at keeping La U at bay, yet they struggled to make in roads at the other end. That was until the half-hour mark when the game finally awoke from its slumber.
Having just been booked Sixto Peralta, formerly of Ipswich Town, picked up the ball in space and drove towards Los Azules’ box; a pass to one of the forwards was expected by many in attendance. Peralta had other ideas. Spotting Garcés off his line he chipped the ball into the air and as it made its way into the net the back rushing Garcés managed to get his finger tips to the ball to divert Peralta’s improvisation over the bar.
From the corner Garcés had to be alert again to stop a header on the line before being called into action for the third time in quick succession. Peralta was again the driving force in midfield but this time he played the ball to Michael Ríos who had moved infield from his right-wing spot. The former Deportes Iquique player flicked a lovely first time ball ‘around the corner’ into the path of Matías Mier and as the ball bounced up Mier went to lift the ball over Garcés, only for the ex-Católica ‘keeper to be alert to the threat, advance from his line and thwart the Uruguayan with an NBA style block. Denied!
It was now La U’s time to attack, the game now flowing. Unsurprisingly Lorenzetti was involved; dropping into space between defence and midfield he collected a pass and clipped a delightful pass to Ubilla. Like Garcés Toselli was quick off his line, forcing Ubilla to stab at the chance and the ball flew over the bar. Before you knew it Ubilla was again free in the Católica box but from a tight angle he fired wide of the far post.
After a slow start the half ended in high-octane style; UC’s midfield working carefully as a unit while La U were more open with defenders looking to attack.
Sampaoli increased his attacking options in the second half by replacing Marino with Enzo Gutiérrez at the break; Sebastián Martínez was to patrol the centre of midfield by himself in front of what was now a back four.
The game ebbed and flowed more than it had done so in the first half with both sides creating and then squandering chances. Paulo Magalhaes was the first to go close with what turned out to be the second half’s best chance, heading a Lorenzetti header against the back post. The same player forced Toselli to push a shot around the post later on in the match.
The open nature of the game was helped by all six substitutions being made in the second half and both sides making tweaks to their original system. However La U’s changes had a negative effect on Lorenzetti’s influence on proceedings as the Argentine ‘enganche’ – one of La U’s best players in the Clausura – was shifted into a variety of positions.
The signing of Pedro Morales earlier in the year was made to augment La U’s creative options. However since returning to the Estadio Nacional Morales has struggled to find form but could have made a real impact off the bench against UC. He first saw Ubilla convert his free-kick from an offside position before bringing the best out of Toselli when it looked as if he had secured the three points for Los Azules. A cross by Lorenzetti from the left found Morales in the area but the on-loan Dinamo Zagreb midfielder’s header was plucked out the air by Toselli as it made it’s way into the corner. Not only was the shot saved but it was held also; an old-school save.
If it sounds like the second half was all La U, it wasn’t. Católica and their 19-year-old striker Nicolás Castillo remained a dangerous proposition in attack, with the best chances coming from the only two instances of questionable goalkeeping from Garcés. The ‘keeper fumbled a shot into the path of Castillo but Osvaldo González reacted quickly to block what would have been a certain goal. It was followed by a moment’s hesitation from Garcés that allowed Castillo to reach the ball first but the goalkeeper recovered to block the striker’s effort.
In the end the draw will have left La U the more content team having already qualified for the Clausura play-offs while simultaneously resting important players for the return-leg in Brazil as they trail São Paulo 2-0.
La U cling onto their play-off spot but know that a win against Universidad de Concepción at the weekend is likely needed to make sure of their place in the end of year finale. It has been a better week for Lasarte who has come under fire from fans and has seen a number of different coaches linked to his job.
Universidad de Chile (0): P. Garcés; P. Magalhaes, A. Acevedo, O. González; M. Rodríuez, S. Martínez (E. Videla 75’), G. Marino (E. Gutiérrez 46’), R. Cereceda; S. Ubilla, G. Lorenzetti, J. Duma (P. Morales 58’).
Universidad Católica (0): C. Toselli; C. Sepúlveda, C. Álvarez, H. Martínez (E. Andía 58’), A. Parot; M. Ríos, S. Peralta, T. Costa, M. Mier (F. Cordero 58’); N. Castillo, D, Gazale (A. Ramos 73’).
Referee: R. Tobar
Man of the match: Paulo Garcés – despite two nervy moments in the second half he filled in brilliantly for Jhonny Herrera, making three or four key saves.