Chile 2-1 Bolivia & Matchday 1 Review
Chile beat Bolivia in Martín Lasarte's first game in charge, the first week of Chilean Primera Division action and Barnechea City (?)
Chile 2-1 Bolivia
Martin Lasarte’s first game in charge was meant to be a crucial World Cup qualifier against Paraguay in Santiago. That was suspended owing to the pandemic and in its place arrived a friendly against Bolivia in Rancagua. The postponement of the Paraguay fixture may prove a blessing given Arturo Vidal would have been out injured. This match gave Lasarte a good look at Chile’s increasingly promising crop of youngsters with most of Chile’s European stars staying on the old continent.
There were bright defensive actions from 19-year-old central defender Daniel Gonzalez who despite being played out of position at right-back displayed his excellent reading of the game. 22-year-old Tomas Alarcón ran the game in midfield and a move to Europe will surely come this year for the O’Higgins man who always seems to rise to the occasion. The performances off the bench from Carlos Palacios and Clemente Montes also give Chile plenty of hope that the recambio is finally well and truly here.
Lasarte deserves credit for giving chances to youth so soon, something that many thought his predecessor didn’t do enough. In fairness to Reinaldo Rueda, the social uprising and then the pandemic denied him many chances to experiment in the last 18 months of his reign, especially in a friendly such as this and with an actually talented set of young players.
The Uruguayan head coach also looked to some older heads for solutions. The performance of 36-year-old Luis Jimenez in a false nine role worked well, as it has for El Mago at Palestino these past few months. Jimenez scored the opener with a smart finish in the box and will be a serious option come June in Chile’s strongest possible XI. Despite his age, he then played less than 48 hours later for Los Árabes.
Jean Meneses finished off good work by Cesar Pinares to put Chile back in front just after Chile had allowed Bolivia to equaliser from a corner. Meanwhile, centre-back Gary Medel and goalkeeper Claudio Bravo were back together leading the backline, and helping left-back Erick Wiemberg make a decent debut after a nervy start. Bravo was named Chile captain for the first time since 2017, something that appeared to upset Arturo Vidal who was thousands of miles away in Italy recovering from his injury.
Overall this felt like a win that was more due to individuals winning their battles than any real team performance. Lasarte deserves credit for his squad selection, but he still does have plenty of work to do on the team. I think we can expect them to look to improve working the ball out of defence and also defending set-pieces to name just two negative elements of La Roja’s performance. The latter situation should be helped when Chile’s likely first choice right-sided center backs (Guillermo Maripan and Francisco Sierralta) are available for selection.
Good First Impressions
Antofagasta will kick off Matchday 2 of the Chilean Primera Division with a home game against Everton on Good Friday (2nd April). Los Pumas were the surprise package of the first matchday, beating Palestino 4-2 away from home in a very entertaining clash. Center-forward Tobias Figueroa was in imperious form leading the line, and he was backed up by the likes of Jason Flores, Eduard Bello and young debutant Maykol Sánchez. Everton, despite drawing 1-1, were the better side against O’Higgins and it should be an interesting match-up to kick off the second week of matches.
Unión Española claimed a deserved 3-1 win over Santiago Wanderers in a gripping encounter in Santa Laura. Both sides weren’t afraid to attack and victory for the home side wasn’t sealed until injury time. The result eases pressure on Jorge Pellicer after a poor start as UE boss - Victor Mendez gave another strong display in midfield.
Bad First Impressions
Although they managed a 0-0 draw against last season’s runners-up, it still felt like watching last season’s Colo-Colo. Many of the issues on and off the field remain. The saga of Los Albos trying to sign a new centre-back rumbles on. They still look light in the centre-forward position too, and unfortunately for their huge fanbase that looks unlikely to change.
Despite winning 1-0 away to Ñublense, Universidad Católica´s performance left a lot to be desired. For the second game running under Gus Poyet they had a very quiet and passive opening 25 minutes to the match where they didn’t manage a shot or even attack of note. Valber Huerta’s goal was rather fortunate for the winner and newly-promoted Ñublense rightly felt unlucky not to get a point from this. Clemente Montes replaced Gonzalo Tapia early in this one and had a big impact on the game, being the main source of dangerous attacks for UC. Tapia now faces a month out on the sidelines with an injury though, which is a blow as this looks set to be his breakthrough season.
Huachipato’s free-scoring performances at home in the run-in last season meant many expected them to record a home win over Cobresal. In the end, this match petered out to be the dullest game of the weekend and it finished 0-0 with the away side actually creating the better chances.
Newly-promoted Deportes Melipilla found themselves 2-0 down early on in their long-awaited return to the top flight. This meant Curicó Unido managed to score the first two goals of the Chilean season. The first was an Olympic Goal from Felipe Villagran before young Argentine Adrián Sánchez took aim from range to make it 2-0 in what was a Man of the Match performance in the centre of the park from the debutant. Melipilla looked shellshocked after conceding and if they don’t learn quickly at this level then this could be a very long season for them.
The weakest performance of the first matchday came from Deportes La Serena against Audax Italiano in Rancagua. Audax couldn’t use their stadium in La Florida (Santiago) as it is being used as a vaccination centre. Although Audax’s performance was impressive at times, La Serena offered very little resistance, with their consolation goal coming with the last kick of the game from Sebastian Leyton. Audax’s goals were well worked down each of the wings with Joaquin Montecinos, Michael Fuentes and Roberto Cereceda all impressing.
U23 Player of the Week
Scoring and assisting in the same match is a fairly rare feat, so to manage it within 15 minutes of your professional debut was a fantastic achievement by Bruno Barticcioltto of Palestino. Bruno is the son of Colo-Colo legend Marcelo Barticciotto, but despite his links to El Popular, the youngster is actually on the books of champions Universidad Católica.
I would also like to give a special mention to Yerco Oyanedel who was excellent at left-back for Union La Calera against Colo-Colo on his debut for his new club too. He is another player on-loan from Universidad Católica, further highlighting their excellence at producing young talent at the moment. Mexican-Chilean Benjamin Galdames, who was a surprise starter for Unión Española rewarded the faith shown in him by his manager with an assist and strong showing.
Chile’s second-tier gets underway this week with a record four matches being shown live on television over the course of the weekend. Relegated clubs Universidad de Concepción, Deportes Iquique and Coquimbo Unido will start as favourites to return to the top flight. Coquimbo have signed a number of experienced players including Chilean internationals Esteban Paredes, Carlos Carmona and Jean Beausejour. On the first Matchday, Iquique and Coquimbo face each other. Rangers and Union San Felipe also face-off, both sides will feel they were unfortunate not to go up last season so are determined to give it another shot this year. With so much player turnover in so many squads, this can be a league that is very hard to predict - especially in its early stages.
Australia, Spain, France, Belgium, Uruguay, USA, India, China and Japan - that’s the list of countries where City Football Group owns clubs at this point in time. And it appears that Chile might be next in line for the group although it could be just a partnership for the time being as CFG currently have with Bolivar in Bolivia. Watch this space, but Barnechea seem confident the exact details will be announced formally in the coming days and players have already been signed that are owned by the holding group.
Chilean Primera Division Fixtures for Matchday 2, the highlight of which is Universidad Católica vs. Palestino:
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