Football

Published on October 27th, 2014 | by John Lyons

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Battling la U hang on to top spot

After earlier wins for Colo Colo and Santiago Wanderers, the pressure was on Universidad de Chile to beat Palestino – and they did it the hard way.
When first half goals from strikers Enzo Gutiérrez, replacing the injured Gustavo Canales, and Pato Rubio, an acrobatic volley, gave la U a 2-0 advantage, it looked as though it would be plain sailing.
However, Palestino upped their game in the second half and were right back in it when the nippy César Valenzuela netted a superb individual goal in the 51st minute.
The Estadio Nacional crowd began to get edgy as the prospect of the azules frittering crucial points away in the title chase began to look more likely.
La U boss Martín Lasarte responded with some defensive tactical changes to break Palestino´s grip. Missing a handful of regulars, Universidad de Chile had to dip deep to grind out the victory and put last weekend’s ´super clásico´ defeat against Colo Colo behind them.
Palestino had various penalty appeals waved away by the referee, but lacked the clinical touch to make la U pay.
However, the azules won´t care that it was an ugly victory. The win, and three precious points, put them back top of the table after Colo Colo had temporarily taken pole position by beating Unión La Calera 2-0 earlier in the afternoon. La U have 31 points to Colo Colo´s 29.
Gonzalo Fierro´s cool 25th-minute finish after a superb Esteban Paredes pass gave the albos the lead and Apertura top scorer Paredes added the second in the 68th minute against a La Calera side that had already been reduced to ten men.
It wasn´t La Calera´s day. Trailing 1-0, top scorer Leandro Benegas blasted a penalty high over the crossbar.
Meanwhile, surprise package Santiago Wanderers remain in title contention, three points behind the leaders. Roberto Gutiérrez netted twice as they edged out San Marcos de Arica 2-1 in Valparaíso.
Next weekend, the big game to look forward to is the ´clásico universitario´ -Universidad de Chile host Universidad Católica. Colo Colo travel to Cobresal, while Wanderers host O´Higgins.
Away from the title race, O´Higgins moved fourth after an impressive 3-0 win against sliding Huachipato. Uruguayan striker Octavio Rivero scored two, one a belter, and missed a penalty as the Rancagua outfit cruised to victory.
Unión Española lie fifth despite going down to a 3-1 defeat at Ñublense. Captain Mathías Riquero, another Uruguayan, scored twice as Ivo Basay´s troops came from behind to take victory.
Universidad Católica fought back to beat Audax Italiano 2-1 and ease the pressure on under-fire boss Julio César Falcioni, while Universidad de Concepción edged out Cobresal 3-2.
Cobreloa and Iquique played out an entertaining 3-3 draw, while Antofagasta and Barnechea drew 1-1.

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