The second half (Segunda Etapa) of the Ecuadorian Serie A kicked off at the weekend with more than a couple of surprises.
Many of the teams have invested in new players and none more so than Deportivo Quito who brought in: Argentine midfielder Sebastian Rusculleda and Chilean forward, Gonzalo Lorca from Santiago Wanderers, Uruguayan defender Mauro Villa and new goalkeeper Alexi Lemos.
Deportivo are looking to retain their overall title (Bicampeneato) from last year. Last term they finished in a disappointing 7th position despite a late surge of form. On Friday they got off to a horrible start by going down 2-1 away to lowly Macara. The result was even more surprising considering they thrashed Macara 3-0 in the Atahaulpa only last week. Los Azulgrana (The Blue and Dark Reds) were caught napping after the break and conceded twice in the early stages of the 2nd half through Ledesma and Martinez. Although Luis Romero grabbed one back in 81 minutes, Macara held on for a fine opening day win.
Liga de Loja managed to pip Independiente at the post last weekend to claim 2nd place and a historic Copa Sudamericana place but the Los negriazules (The black-and-blues) got their revenge on Saturday with a fine 2 – 0 win at home in Sangloqui. A Daniel Samaniego double in the first half secured the win and gave Independiente top spot.
Macara 2 – 1 Deportivo Quito
Manta FC 1 – 2 Liga de Quito
Independiente Jose Teran 2 – 1 Liga of Loja
Olmedo 1 – 2 Barcelona
El Nacional 2 – 2 Universidad Technico
Emelec 1 – 0 Deportivo Cuenca
In the weekends other games Liga de Quito did well to come back in the 2nd half and secure a 2 -1 away to Manta. The Liga fans had hoped to see new Paraguayan signing Eduardo Echeverria but he was not match fit, nevertheless they were treated to spirited if not convincing performance. After going behind to a Carlos Garcés in 36 minutes they finally rallied late in the game to overturn the deficit.
Similarly Barcelona struggled to overcome Olmedo and had to raise their game after conceding in 36 minutes courtesy of Sergio Souza. Barcelona’s striking duo of Ladines and Arrinton finally overcame Olmedo to claim the full 3 points.
In the remaining games Emelec won 1-0 at home to Deportivo Cuenca while El Nacional drew 2-2 against Universidad Technico.
Someone, in their wisdom decided to have this week’s game on Friday afternoon at 12pm. The result was a crowd of barely 2,000 even with tickets slashed to encourage attendance. Luckily I finished my classes at 11.40 so I walked 5 minutes over to the stadium to take in the matinee performance.
The rotund, old woman that sells the tickets outside was offering $2 Tribunas or $3 populars but as she tried to force them into my hand I noticed the $10 Palco VIP tickets underneath. I was feeling flush so decided to invest and walked into the mouth of the stadium and up the stairs.
After choosing the wrong stand entrance I was ushered higher and higher until I reached the various boxes and executives suites, all of which were a far cry from the luxury of the EPL or even SPL. I do not want to appear snobby because I know Ecuador does not have the wealth of Europe but the countries footballing organisations generate enough funds from a fervent supporter base to reinvest in what is the national stadium.
Only last month the national team attracted well over 40,000 for their World Cup qualifier versus Colombia and with tickets a minimum of $25 it’s clear that the money is there.
The Atahualpa Stadium was officially in 1951 and I doubt much has been done to it since. Despite this the stadium engenders charm and reminds me of old pictures of Hampden Park with its one single covered stand and the rest open to the beating sun.
It’s clear the stadium is steeped in history with its many marble plaques commemorating teams and players of old but it wouldn’t take much to improve its dilapidated and run down appearance.
The palco VIP box was empty and soulless and with a huge dirty, glass screen hampering vision and deafening the sound of the match so totally useless for a proper match experience. So I trundled back down the stairs and asked to be allowed into the cheaper seats with my over-invested ticket. Lesson learned.
Macara or Club Social y Deportivo Macará are based in the central city of Ambato and share their stadium with Club Deportivo Técnico Universitario also of Serie A. Known as El Idolo de Ambato (The Idol of Ambato) or Celestes (Sky blues), because of their the shirts, Macara were promoted to the first tier last year after finishing runner-up in Serie B.
Previously their golden period was in the 1980’s when they had several South American stars. Despite this they never managed to win any trophies.
Before today’s game Macara lay in 10th position with 21 points, 3 ahead of their city rivals while Deportivo Quito, after an indifferent start had recently climbed to 7th.
Deportivo started the match by far the brighter with captain,Luis Saritama dominating the midfield and linking up well with Danny Luna. In the opening period both teams had half chances but it was the home side that capitalised on their early dominance by taking the lead on 15 minutes. Congo did well to run down an over-hit pass deep into Macara’s half then cut back a neat ball to Luna at the edge of the box. Instead of shooting form distance Luna dummied the ball to his captain who controlled the ball then placed a beautiful long range shot past a helpless Christian Mora. It was an excellent strike from Saritama and indicative of his current form and confidence.
Macara almost secured parity barely a minute later when their striker, Rodriguez was put through on goal but he ballooned his shot far over the crossbar. The game then got bogged down in midfield for a spell with stray passes and tackles limiting chances. Although Quito were creating the better opportunities, Julio Bevacqua as centre forward was looking slow and cumbersome with his poor first touch spoiling chances to shoot.
Quito doubled their lead in 28 minutes again through Luis Saritama. He dribbled into the box then played a short pass to Folleco who then shimmied past two defenders and smashed the ball high into the Macara net. It was deserved on the balance of play and put Quito firmly in control of the match. Despite this Macara continued to threaten and only some fine acrobatic saves from Adrian Bone denied the sky blues their needed goal. At half time Quito were in command but needed a 3rd to finish the game.
Macara started the 2nd half with a greater intensity and started to pepper the Quito goal with many shots and crosses. Luckily Bone was in fine form and commanded his box when his defenders looked sluggish and lackadaisical. On several occasions the Quito keeper was quick to leave his lines and smother the ball or run down shots. After one such block Quito raced up field to score and end the game as a competition.
This time Folleco turned provider with a high cross to Bevacqua who headed down into the goal. At first it seemed as if Mora had saved but he couldn’t prevent the ball from slipping over the line.
At 3 – 0 Quito could afford the opportunity to try out the young Jose Miguel Andrade who impressed in the last 20 minutes but was denied a goal first by the woodwork then by an awful offside decision.
In the end Deportivo Quito ran out comfortable winners thanks largely to their captain Luis Saritama and some impressive goalkeeping with Adrian Bone.
The win boosts Quito up into 5th position while Macara still linger 3rd from bottom.