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Unión Española 2 – 2 Universidad Católica – Copa Libertadores 2011

My first experience of club football here in Chile and it was a very positive one. I joined just over 10,000 noisy supporters in Santa Laura, Santiago and we were treated to an entertaining 2-2 draw in the first week of group matches in the Copa Libertadores. Here’s my photos, videos and thoughts on the match and experience. Luckily I anticipated all 4 goals, click the links in the article.

I arrived at the stadium in the north of the city fifteen minutes before kick off as I finally dragged myself away from the Arsenal v Barcelona match. It was easy enough to get a ticket from the box office and I decided to get a seat to the side of the pitch with the Católica fans as they were making a typical South American racket complete with drums and a brass section, far more tuneful and enjoyable than England and Sheffield Wednesday’s fans attempts to re-create this kind of atmosphere back home. As I write this report the songs are still reverberating in my head.

The home side Unión Española started the game with some excellent pressing high up the pitch forcing defensive errors and making for some exciting attacking play and they could have been ahead in the first minute. The ball bobbled around the Catolica area until eventually Jaime produced a save from Toselli.

Throughout the first half Católica found it difficult to defend against the excellent right hand side of the attacking Española. Excellent movement from the ever dangerous Argentine front man Jaime caused the Católica defence a few tactical dilemmas.  The picture below shows that Española were prepared to leave 3 forwards up even when Católica had the ball in the Española  half. Católica in turn looked nervous to commit to many players forward, Unión Española really had the favourites rattled.

The away side however thought they had gone ahead slightly against the run of play halfway through the first half but Roberto Gutiérrez’s header was ruled out for offside. In truth UC offered little in the 1st half apart from moves that regularly broke down in the final third with slopping passing to blame, Fernando Meneses an exception,  and there were many disgruntled Católica fans at the half-time whistle.

At the start of the second it seemed like the half time break had made no difference to the champions of Chile and they fell behind. A corner was headed into the path of Monje to smash home from inside the 6 yard box to put the impressive Española 1-0 up. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2oDi2W6ttG8

This goal seemed to wake Catolica up. A key moment occurred around this time when the number 10 Marcelo Canete who had a very poor game, was substituted to the relief of the UC fans. His replacement Villanueva had an immediate impact as he grabbed hold of the midfield and soon after his introduction UC equalised. Lucas Pratto glancing home a header from a cross from the left. All square. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykq1q0P1Ezo

For the first time in the match it was clear UC were on top and they looked a very capable side. The goal of the match put UC 2-1 up. It was a nice move ending with a superb touch and finish from Fernando Meneses, a goal his exciting performance deserved . http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wIoSCR7DqOk . At this stage you felt they would go on to seal the victory comfortably. They nearly did just that when an audacious lob from Roberto Gutiérrez after some poor goalkeeping just went wide of the post.

As the final whilst neared, tension appeared in the Católica backline again and Espanola had started to force some errors. Then in the 89th minute whilst seemingly in little danger Catolica youngster Alfonso Parot gave away a silly penalty that was expertly converted by Leal, a contender for man of the match. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPIsm-x1akI . Española got away with a point in the end, they sat back and invited pressure when they had gone ahead in a game which I feel they had in their control. They were not helped by the loss of Olarra during the 2nd half.

It finished 2-2, a fair result all in all and I’m already looking forward to my next Copa Libertadores match. Argentine side Velez look a strong bet to win this group although on this showing if the Chilean teams can tighten up at the back they will both push hard for qualification.

More Photos Here – http://s1135.photobucket.com/albums/m621/caniggiascores/Union%20Espanola/

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