Argentina top the table

Argentina continue to top the CONMEBOL table after their 2-1 away win against Chile last night.

Chile fell asleep for 4 minutes in the first half and allowed Messi and Higuain to claim a quick brace in 28 and 31 minutes. Argentina then needed only to hang on to claim 3 points but they did concede a late Gutierrez consolation.

In Puerto La Cruz, Ecuador recorded a fine away draw against Venezuela to bolster their qualification chances.

“La Vinotintos” took the lead, with what must have been the goal of the night through Juan Arango. The veteran captain collected the ball 30 yards from goal then unleashed an unstoppable howitzer past the flailing Dominguez.

Ecuador rallied and restored parity 15 minutes later through Segundo Castillo when he struck low from inside the box. Although both teams had chances to win it a draw was probably a fair result in an open and entertaining game

In Asuncion, Pablo Aguilar claimed the only goal of the night to win the bottom of the table clash against Peru. Barring a small miracle neither team should be in contention for the qualification spots.

The surprise of the night was in La Paz where Bolivia hammered Uruguay 4 -1. Carlos Saucedo grabbed a hat-trick to condemn Uruguay to their second defeat in five days. Luis Suarez got one back near the end.

Concern must be growing for” La Celeste” as they have managed to take only one point form three games, two of which were at home.

BOLIVIA 4 – 1 URUGUAY

PARAGUAY 1 – 0 PERU

VENEZUELA 1 -1 ECUADOR

CHILE 1 – 2 ARGENTINA

The COMNEBOL table seems to splitting in 3 parts with Argentina, Ecuador and Colombia moving away slightly form the pack. That being said two positive results can alter qualification chances dramatically and no team is in the clear yet.

CONMEBOL team of week 9 (12/10/2012)

Week 9 saw Argentina, Ecuador and Colombia win and move away from the pack. The qualifying group has now split into 3 parts with Chile and Uruguay losing form in the last 3 games.

Messi was at his imperial best against Uruguay. It has often been touted that little Leo does not perform for his country and cannot replicate his Barcelona form. This qualifying campaign, and the recent Brazil friendly largely dispels this myth.

His second goal was particularly impressive. It wasn’t as spectacular as his recent free-kick against Real Madrid but it was the apparent simplicity and ease in his execution to slip the ball low past the keeper.

BOLIVIA  1 (Chumacero 51′) PERU 1 (Marion0 21′)

COLOMBIA 2 (Falcoa 52′, 90′) PARAGUAY 0

ECUADOR 3 (Caicedo 33′,56′, Castillo 93′) CHILE (Paredes OG 25′)

ARGENTINA 3 (Messi 66′,80′ Aguero 75′) URUGUAY 0

 

In Quito, Ecuador finally broke down a stubborn Chile after initially going behind. A couple of rash challenges had Chile eventually go down to 9 men and Ecuador took full advantage. Their tormentor in chief was Felipe Caicedo who continued his impressive international form and scored his 3rd and 4th goals in 3 games.

 

Man of the moment Radamel Falcao scored a brace against bottom dwelling Paraguay while in La Paz, Bolivia and Peru recorded 1-1 draw helping neither of their qualification chances.

My best 11 of last Friday’s games:

 

 

Ecuadorian teams hopeful in the Sudamericana

The Ecuadorian teams had a mixed bag in the first leg ties of last weeks Copa Sudamericana but with a little luck they could all progress.

Liga de Loja had the toughest task against Brazilian giants Gremio and although they secured a credible home draw they will have their work cut out in Porto Alegre. Especially after losing the away goal. Yimmy Bermudez took the lead for Loja in the first half before a Larrea own goal restored parity 7 minutes later.

Emelec secured a fine 2-2 away draw in Chile against current Sudamericana  holders Universidad de Chile and should be confident of progress for the return and although Barcelona lost to Sao Paulo  they should also overcome the Brazilians in Guayaquil.

The most impressive result was Deportivo Quito’s against Tigre of Argentina. The negro azules have been truly awful domestically and until recently relegation was a realistic threat.  Both teams eventually finished the game with 10 men but importantly Quito got tow goals through Lorca in 53 minutes and Vila in the 86th.

     Deportivo Quito       2 – 0                Tigre

                  Liga de Loja         1 – 1           Sao Paulo

                      Barcelona         0 – 1            Gremio

Universidad de Chile        2 – 2         Emelec

Ecuador can go top of the table with win against Chile

If results go their way on Friday and Tuesday, Ecuador could top the CONMEBOL table and bolster their World Cup qualification chances.

The coming games against Chile at home then Venezuela in Caracas are not the easiest, but winnable even without some key players.

Antonio Valencia will sit out the Chile game through suspension and Jairo Campos has ruptured his Achilles but apart from that Ecuador have a full strength squad.

Christian Noboa returns after suspension and Jefferson Montero is back after missing the game in Uruguay through injury.

Ecuadorian coach Reinalda Rueda should be aiming for at least 4 points from these two games. In last month’s game against Bolivia is team were fairly dreadful and had to rely on a poor penalty decision to take 3 points. In Montevideo their fortune was reversed and they suffered because of shambolic refereeing display.

Ecuador’s last 5 games

Sep 11, 2012       Uruguay 1 – Ecuador 1    WCQ

Sep 7, 2012         Ecuador 1 – Bolivia 0        WCQ

Aug 16, 2012       Ecuador 3 – Chile 0           Friendly

Jun 10, 2012        Ecuador 1 – Colombia 0  WCQ

Jun 2, 2012          Argentina 4 – Ecuador 0 WCQ

It’s difficult to make any inferences form August’s friendly game as it was in the USA and Chile did not look like they took it so seriously. But their last game against a resurgent Colombia was very disappointing.

Chile’s superstars are Alexis Sanchez (Barcelona) and Eduardo Vargas (Napoli) but they have a spread of players in most of the top leagues in Europe. Currently Chile also has a strong domestic league and teams like Universidad de Chile, Colo Colo and Universidad Catolica usually compete in the latter stages of the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana.

I doubt Chile will be as negative and defensive as Bolivia or Colombia in the Atahaulpa stadium but I still expect them to play on the counter attack.

Chile’s last 5 games

Sep 11, 2012       Chile 1 – Colombia 3         WCQ

Aug 16, 2012       Ecuador 3 – Chile 0           Friendly

Jun 9, 2012          Venezuela 0 – Chile 2      WCQ

Jun 2, 2012          Bolivia 0 – Chile 2               WCQ

Apr 12, 2012       Peru 0 – Chile 3                Friendly

Ecuador has better form going to Friday’s game and should take confidence from their recent friendly win. Competitive games between the countries have been tight affairs.

Head to Head

Aug 16, 2012       Ecuador 3 – Chile 0          Friendly

Oct 14, 2009        Chile 1 – Ecuador 0           WCQ

Oct 12, 2008        Ecuador 1 – Chile 0           WCQ

Jun 27, 2007        Ecuador 2 – Chile 3          Copa America

Game Prediction :  Ecuador 2 Chile 0

CONMEBOL Qualification table

                      P            W        D         L          GF       GA      GD      Pts

 Argentina           7              4              2              1              15           6              +9           14

 Colombia           7              4              1              2              12           6              +6           13

 Ecuador               7              4              1              2              8              7              +1           13

 Uruguay              7              3              3              1              15           11           +4           12

 Chile                  7                4              0              3              12           13           -1            12

 Venezuela         8              3              2              3              7              8              -1            11

 Peru                    7               2              1              4              9              13           -4            7

 Bolivia                 7              1              1              5              7              12           -5            4

 Paraguay            7              1              1              5              5              14           -9            4

 

Realistically, unless they turn around their poor form Paraguay, Bolivia and Peru are out of contention for one of the 5 qualification spots. However with only 3 points between the top 6 any of the other nations can aspire to be in Brazil.

Ecuador do just enough to win against Bolivia

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It was frustrating, edgy and nerve wracking but in the end Ecuador managed to secure a vital 3 points for their World Cup qualifying campaign.

Bolivia opted for a suffocating 4-5-1 and Ecuador found it difficult to break down their defensive wall however they were ultimately victorious 1 – 0 in a sweltering Atahaulpa Stadium.

Substitute Felipe Caicedo was the man who finally made the difference in the 71st minute. After wriggling through a couple of challenges he slipped the ball to Luis Saritama who was then bundled to the ground in the penalty box. The penalty award was harsh by Venezuelan referee Juan Soto but Caicedo coolly slotted past Hugo Suárez to claim the decisive goal.

As expected Reinalda Ruelda opted for a 4-4-2 formation replacing the suspended duo of Benitez and Noboa with Mina and Saritama.

Starting line-up for Ecuador:

                                                                        Alexander Domínguez
 
                                                                     Fricson Erazo          Jairo Campos  
              
                                 Juan Carlos Paredes                                                       Walter Ayovi
 
                              Antonio Valencia                   Segundo Castillo              Jefferson Montero
 
                                                                                       Luis Saritama
 
                                                                              Narciso Mina
                                                                                                               Jaime  Ayoví

Starting line-up for Bolivia:

                                                             Hugo Suarez

José Barba       Christian Vargas    R. Raldes        Luis Gutiérrez   Luís Méndez                                       

                                  Mauricio Saucedo    G. Mojica  Pedro Azogue           

                                                            José Chávez

                                                           Marcelo Moreno

Ecuador attacked from the outset and it was clear from the opening minutes that their attacks would come down each of the channels. Obviously aware of the threat of Antonio Valencia Bolivia opted to double up on the Manchester United winger which in turn provided more space for the marauding Paredes on the left.

Despite this it was on the right through Jefferson Montero where Ecuador had early success.

Montero was linking well with Saritama down the right hand side but his final balls were too far and wide for the attackers to meet. When he cut inside the defenders he was crudely challenged by Ronald Raldes then José Chávez both of which received early cautions 9 minutes in. The resulting free-kicks, just outside the Bolivian box were ballooned over the goals.

Ecuador were enjoying the lion’s share of possession and creating down the wings as the first quarter of the match passed but the final balls from both Montero, on the right and Paredes, on the left were often high and awry.

The Ecuadorian crowd rose from their seats in anticipation every time Valencia received the ball but apart from some nice switches to the right hand side his influence upon the game was very limited. Bolivia were crowding the midfield and stifling Ecuador’s pretensions with illegal challenges and Pedro Azogue was lucky not to go into the referee’s book after persistent fouls.

It made for a slow and uneventful first half, just what the Bolivians had hoped for.

On 34 minutes Ayovi was put through by Paredes but he scuffed his shot wide and as half time approached, Montero pulled up holding his hamstring ending his influence upon the game.

Half time brought welcome respite for all from the bleaching, Ecuadorian sun. In the first half the clouds had protected the Atahaulpa from the scorching rays but as the game progressed the heat became intolerable, for a Scotsman at least.

Both teams made changes for the 2nd half: Ecuador replaced the injured Montero with Michael Mina and Bolivia swapped Mauricio Saucedo for Alcides Jimenez.

Again Ecuador took the initiative and attacked through Paredes and Valencia. Twice and in two minutes Valencia did well to beat his marker and cross into the box each time the ball was too high for a proper connection by Ayovi.

Felipoa Caicedo

On 55 minutes Reinalda Ruelda changed Jaime Javier Ayoví Corozo for Felipe Caicedo, a decision that would ultimately change the match. Caicedo was more direct and willingly to take the ball into the centre and while his first few shot s were wild or blocked his incisive play contributed to Ecuador’s penalty on 71 minutes.

Taking the ball from the right hand side he dribbled past 3 players then laid the ball off to an onrushing Saritama who then seemed to run into Ronald Raldes. The referee deemed it to be illegal challenge and awarded a harsh penalty against the centre half.

The Bolivian’s were incandescent with rage and surrounded the referee in futile attempt to get the decision reversed, only managing to pick up yellow cards for dissent.

Caicedo stepped up and dispatched his penalty low to the left sending Suarez the wrong way and 35,000 crowd into rapture. On balance Ecuador had deserved their lead as Bolivia rarely threatened and seemed happy to spoil and defend.

Ecuador pushed for a second but Bolivia managed resist with some last ditch defending and clearances.

When Bolivia staged a late counter the crowd feared the worst but luckily the chance was wasted and Ecuador hung on to claim a deserved 3 points.

Ecuador will have to play better against Uruguay in Montevideo on Tuesday if they want to secure any points and preserve their 2nd position in the qualifying table. Added to which their national hero, Antonio Valencia will have to up his game as he was largely anonymous and heavy-legged for the majority of the match.

Although the defence were generally solid they had little to do against a stoic Bolivia. On the rare times that they were threatened the Ecuadorians sometimes looked indecisive, against Uruguay on Tuesday they cannot afford to be as lax. Christain Benitez will return on Tuesday giving Ecuador more of an attacking edge and attacking focal point.

Bolivia’s qualification chances look doomed already. Having played one more game than the rest and 6 points behind 5th place they will need some surprising results to move up the table.

The CONMEBAL qualifiers continue on Tuesday, when Chile take on Colombia, Uruguay host Ecuador, Paraguay play Venezuela and Peru face Argentina.

Aucas thump Leon Carr in the Chillogallo

Today I made the trip to Chillogallo in the north of Quito to watch Aucas in action for the first time.

Although historically a first division team Aucas have tumbled down the leagues in recent years and now reside in the third tier or Segunda categoria.

Aucas or Sociedad Deportiva Aucas was formed in 1945 and named after the indigenous Auca tribe:who are also called Huaorani , from Ecuador’s Amazonian region. They were originally owned by the petroleum giant Royal Dutch Shell and as a result continue to play in Shell’s colours of red and yellow.

Historically, their rivals have been giants Liga de Quito from the south of Quito but in recent years their success has been at polar opposites. Aucas have never won the national championship but this does not dim the enthusiasm of the supporters who are recognised as one of the most passionate in Ecuador.

The likes of Augustin Delgado and Rene Higuita (who left after testing positive for cocaine) have previously played for the El idolo del pueblo (People’s Idol) and now Aucas have 3 of Ecuador’s most travelled player players: Wellington Sánchez, Gustavo Figueroa and Ivan Kaviedes in their squad.

Indeed much of the pre-match hype had concentrated on Ivan Kaviedes who had been arrested and jailed last week for drunk driving and assaulting a police officer. The director of Aucas defended his veteran striker by claiming that Kaviedes was the victim of police extortion or even robbery. Unfortunately in much of Latin America this is commonplace. Many might remember Kaviedes from the World Cup 2006 and his Spiderman mask celebration versus Costa Rica, many fewer will remember his brief period playing for Crystal Palace.

Ivan Kaviedes

A bumper crowd of 8,000 half-filled the Estadio Chillogallo giving a loud and frenzied atmosphere, helped along by a couple of bands, many drums and more than a few rattles.

Today’s opponents would be Leon Carr from Pelileo, a small Andean city 150 km south of Quito. Judging from the amount of sponsors on their blue shirts and their lack of substitutes they were not the richest club in the world and did not have the resources of Aucas.

Aucas started the brighter and dominated the early play. With 6 minutes on the clock Aucas took the lead when Padilla crossed long for Juan Carlos Villacres to nod in from close range, then barely 30 seconds later veteran Gustavo Figeroa outran the defence to slip home Aucas’s second.

From then on it was dreadfully one sided as the Leon defence were ripped open at will and repeatedly left chasing the ball. Aucas were far sharper and were creating chance after chance with slick one-twos and neat passing with only the Leon goal-keeper, Christian Chagueza preventing it becoming a cricket score.

Much of the play was on the ground then fed out to the wings where upon the wide players would cross into the on-rushing attackers. Despite having an obvious height advantage the Leon defenders looked panic stricken with every cross and scrambled to clear the ball to safety.

When another Mercado knocked in a third Aucas goal the game was over as a competition before half-time approached.

There were several things that marked the gulf in class and ability between both teams but most strikingly were the veteran players. Although Figeroa and Sánchez are in the twilight of their careers they obviously have not lost their touch and ability to read the game. Sanchez was picking long passes and controlling the midfield while letting the younger players do the running and Figeroa was hanging outside the box like an old, opportunist fox. It was clear to even an untrained eye that these players were a class apart.

The second half brought no respite for Leon Carr as they were ruthlessly exposed and battered into submission.  Juan Carlos Villacrés secured an impressive hat-trick in 51 and 62 minutes, (the second being an opportunist overhead kick). Jhon Tejada rattled a stunning free-kick from outside the box in between these to make it 5 before Moises Cuero rapped up the scoring with a late penalty to secure an emphatic 7 – 0.

The only thing left was a late red card for Leon Carr midfielder Carlos Vilacís who walked after nearly hospitalising an Aucas defender.

The result leaves Aucas in pole position for promotion but still leaves them far from Serie A and any possible games with Liga de Quito.

LINE-UPS

Aucas: Carlos Espinoza, Freddy Salazar, Santiago Mallitasig, Cesar Mercado, César Villacís, Edwin Méndez, Wellington Sánchez, Nixon Folleco, Jairo Padilla, Gustavo Figeroa and Juan Carlos Villacrés.

León Carr: Christian Chagueza, Fabricio Castillo, Darwin Núñez, Carlos Villacís, Hugo Manzano, Efrén Paredes, Miguel Sánchez, Jair Angulo, Óscar Freire, Jimmy Arroyo and Álex Tipantasig.

Despite the game being so lop-sided it was good to visit a different club in Quito and watch fans who obviously adore their club. The attendance was far more than what El Nacional or Deportivo Quito gets for a Sunday game and the “hinchas” created a vibrant atmosphere. Added to which small things like fans taking their bicycles and dogs into the stadium and vendors delivering your beer to your hands make the match day experience a little bit more special.

Champions league draw

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The draw for the champions league draw has just been made with Group D looking like the “Group of Death”.

After an underwhelming maiden tournament last year Roberto Mancini will be hoping to qualify for the next stage. However with Real Madrid, Ajax and  Borussia Dortmund (all champions of their respective countries) in their group it will be a hard task to complete.

Celtic could of got it easier with Barcelona and Benfica but they can hold realistic ambitions of a 3rd place and Europa league spot along with Spartak Moscow. Their away form seems to be improving and they are a match for any at Celtic Park.

Holders Chelsea got Juventus,Shakhtar Donetsk and newcomers  FC Nordsjaelland.

Arsenal face trips to Schalke, Olympiakos, Montpellier and Man Utd will play Braga, Galatasaray, CFR Cluj in Group H.

FULL DRAW

Group A: Porto, Dynamo Kiev, Paris St Germain, Dinamo Zagreb.

Group B: Arsenal, Schalke, Olympiakos, Montpellier.

Group C: AC Milan, Zenit St Petersburg, Anderlecht, Malaga.

Group D: Real Madrid, Manchester City, Ajax, Borussia Dortmund.

Group E: Chelsea, Shakhtar Donetsk, Juventus, FC Nordsjaelland.

Group F: Bayern Munich, Valencia, Lille, BATE Borisov.

Group G: Barcelona, Benfica, Spartak Moscow, Celtic.

Group H: Manchester United, Braga, Galatasaray, CFR Cluj.