Friday, June 12, 2015

La Roja start in style – Alexis makes the difference

The scene was set and Chile was ready to go: After a spectacular opening ceremony, the Copa América 2015 could finally get underway with the opening match between the hosts Chile and Ecuador.

The lineup’s did not provide any big shocks, I expected Vargas for Chile, he did not start. Instead an additional defender in Mena came into the starting 11 which forced experienced Beausejour into a more offensive role. Ecuador in return put everything on the field that they could. Walter Ayoví plays his 100th international for his country today.

Chile: Bravo – Isla, Medel, Jara, Mena – Aranguiz, Díaz, Vidal – Valdivia – Sánchez, Beausejour.

Ecuador: Domínguez – Paredes, Achilier, Erazo, Ayoví – Lastra, Noboa - Martínez, Bolaños, Montero – E. Valencia.

I am ready for a firework in this opener, so let’s get this party started, La Roja vs El Tri!

The start was promising, it took Chile just over a minute to get the first huge chance of the game, Alexis Sanchez was through on goal and slotted the ball just wide. Two minutes later he had the next chance, as he tried to lob the ball over the goalkeeper, but Dominguez had the right answer at the edge of his area. The offensive approach by the hosts in the early parts of the match is fun to watch, just not for Ecuador, who have trouble with especially the fast moves and turns of Alexis. 17 minutes in, they just tried it with some offense themselves, Montero beat Isla on the left side with a great run, noone was there to meet his low cross. Chile gave the ball away again carelessly right outside of their penalty area, Martínez’ shot was denied by Barca’s Claudio Bravo.

Maybe the players were overwhelmed themselves, but the game took a little break for a while, both teams were trying to get a bit more structure into their actions. Mauricio Isla kept bringing danger on the right wing, but his crosses continued to be met only by Ecuadorian defenders. Shortly after, a shot by Valdivia was easily saved. Finally in the 39th another big chance for Chile, Alexis sent Isla through and his attempt went wide. The 0-0 that the teams went to halftime with, did not really do the game justice. It was attractive and offensive for the most part, La Roja being the dominating team.

CHQj4qoWgAEGGRa.jpg large

“Help, ball!” Alexis Sánchez with Ecuador’s Walter Ayoví who played his 100th game.

One change in Santiago to start the second half, Eduardo Vargas came on for Beausejour who I saw about once in the first half. Ecuador, probably happy with a point from a game against the group favorites, can continue playing like they did towards the end of the first half, one way to success might be to exploit the extremely offensive right Chilean wing, since Isla looked bad defensively twice in the first half.

And that is exactly what they tried, an attack from El Tri’s left wing ended in the feet of Enner Valencia, but he missed the target disappointingly. Despite that chance, Chile quickly took charge again, yet some eyes started to look at the clock in the stadium. Thirty minutes left for each team to get a (possibly decisive) breakthrough. Just after the hour mark, Chile had their best chance of the second half thus far, a rising shot from substitute Vargas was saved on the near side by Domínguez.

The 65th minute of this game will surely be regretted by one player. Bolaños with a clumsy shirt pull on Vidal on the inside edge of the area was completely unneeded but resulted in a penalty. The fouled player took it himself and converted into the top right corner: 1-0 Chile. All defensive plans of the guests were now for the trashcan, a goal needed to get back on level terms.

Throwing everything forward started to work well for them quite a while later. Following some defensive confusion after a freekick, Enner Valencia headed the ball against the crossbar in the 82nd minute. Too close for comfort for Chile, who ended this game in style shortly after. You should not misplace the ball into Sánchez’ foot, if you are Ecuador. They did nevertheless and his brilliant through ball found Vargas, who made it 2-0 with a cool finish. Furthermore, in injury time, experienced Chile substitute Matías Fernández received a needless second yellow card and was sent off.

While it was a lot closer than it had to be until the end, La Roja’s victory is absolutely deserved. For the upcoming games they can significantly improve in their usage of chances though. Ecuador showed some promising scenes here and there, and will battle for second place in this group.

Man of the Match: Alexis Sánchez. Speedy, tricky, unstoppable for his opponents.


Post a Comment