Matchday Review Primera Division

Liga 1: Russo Off To A Flying Start

Photo: Alianza Lima

The Peruvian Liga 1 started its campaign for 2019 with last year’s champions and runners-up, Sporting Cristal and Alianza Lima, starting off strongly. The games had controversial refereeing and we had large attendances to kick off the year.

Rating System: Excellent, Very Good, Entertaining, Mediocre, Bad.

Alianza Lima 3-0 Sport Boys

The scoreline suggests this was an easy game for Alianza Lima, but it was far from that. Sport Boys, with a totally changed side to last year due to financial hardship, used unproven players and played a rough game, stopping Alianza with tactical fouls at every challenge, until the excellent Mauricio Affonso broke the deadlock in the first half.

Alianza’s first game under Miguel Ángel Russo showed a totally different style to Pablo Bengocheas’s. They took charge of the game and played a system more traditionally aligned with their fans’ taste: an aggressive, proactive, possession-based game.

Affonso, Kevin Quevedo, Jose Manzaneda and Luis Ramirez were excellent. The full-backs, Anthony Rosell and Aldair Salazar, were a step up from last year although centre-backs Aldair Fuentes and Hansell Riojas looked nervous when under pressure.

Sport Boys were poor, and their fans argue that a penalty should have been awarded to them in the first few minutes, but they would have still lost since Alianza was so superior.

Game rating: Mediocre

Universidad San Martin 1-1 UTC

UTC travelled to Lima for the business of earning a draw and almost won if it wasn’t for Marcelo Olivera breaking an offside trap to equalize with 10 minutes remaining.

San Martin, like every year, lost half the squad from the previous season and presented a youthful team. But it appears that this year will be a difficult season for them. Losing players like Koffi Dakoi, Ake Loba, Jesus Pretell, Gary Correa, Jesus Chavez and Christian Ortiz will surely cost them.

UTC arrived with the objective of getting a point and it was a typical get-to-business display by a Franco Navarro team. Slow the game down, defend well and get the ball to the centre forward. The style is the same and it is as boring as usual.

Game Rating: Bad

Binacional 1-0 Universidad Cesar Vallejo

This game was intriguing before it started. On one side, Binacional had moved to Juliaca, a city at 3,825 metres (12,500 feet) above sea level. Plus, they have reinforced what was an already decent side from last year: Donald Millan, Jefferson Collazos, and J.P. Vergara have come in, as well as well-regarded Peruvian coach Javier Arce.

Their contender was Cesar Vallejo, promoted to Liga1 as Segunda Division champions, after a two-year absence managed by Peruvian great Chemo del Solar. UCV have kept the core of last year’s team but reinforced with the likes of Raul Fernandez, Santiago Silva and German Pacheco.

In a game that had great attendance (approximately 15,000), heavy rain and Vallejo testing their limits of endurance, Binacional won 1-0 with a fantastic strike by Millan. Noteworthy was Sotillo stopping a penalty by Silva. Binacional will challenge this year; they have a strong squad, good manager and the altitude. Vallejo, on the other hand, looked strong and well managed, so they will be a difficult rival for anyone.

Game Rating: Good

Carlos A. Mannucci 4-4 Ayacucho

Carlos Mannucci were back in the first division after 25 years against an Ayacucho side that wanted to show the continuance of their late improvement in 2018. And what a game it was. We got a 4-4 draw with Ayacucho recovering after being down 4-2 until the 81st minute.

Mannucci looked strong offensively with Osnar Noronha being unstoppable, and new signing Tulio Etchemaite was as reliable as always to knock one in on a regular basis. Mannucci’s defence, however, was pathetic and will need a lot of work when they start playing stronger teams.

Ayacucho took the game to Mannucci and the usual staple players were again excellent: Mauricio Montes had two goals and Cristian Mejia and Ardiles managed the tempo of the game. Kevin Sandoval was mediocre today but can do a lot more. Carlos Grados in goal will need to improve and new signing Luis Trujillo was invisible.

Game Rating: Excellent

Sport Huancayo 0-2 Sporting Cristal

This game looked good on paper and it proved to be an entertaining game.

This was another game with controversial refereeing. In what appeared to be an innocuous challenge by Maldonado to Herrera, both players received the red card. After the fact we found out Maldonado bit Herrera in the leg and this is the first time that Herrera ever got sent off in his career. This appears to me that the ref overreached his level of competence and denaturalized the game.

Cristal which looked less dominant than last year, still managed the game at will with good performances by Christofer Gonzalez, Merlo and what appears to be an inspired signing: Palacios. They need to improve if they are to make the impact, they had in 2018.

As for Huancayo, they had a massive overhaul of the squad, but Grioni keeps playing a style that did not work for him last year; win the ball and get it to the big man in the box….If he doesn’t find alternative systems to accommodate the players he has available, he will be out of a job soon.

Well deserved win by Cristal with goals by Merlo and C. Gonzales.

Game Rating: Entertaining

Union Comercio 1 vs Universitario 1

In a controversial ground to be played in, in Moyobamba, Union Comercio and Universitario spit the points.

Why controversial? Comercio got to play in a ground that did not meet the conditions of a First Division game. Teams like Alianza, Universitario had their stadium suspended last year for sub-optimal ground conditions that were better than what we saw yesterday. Until the Federation does not allocate a measurable system instead or relying on a supervisor that makes calls on hearsay then the controversy will continue.

Anyway, to the game. The refereeing was questioned by Comercio as their players were peppered with yellow cards in the first ten minutes. But this time, I agree with the ref. If the offence merited a yellow card it doesn’t matter when it happens. Peruvian players think they can get away with strong fouls with no consequences until the first 20-30 minutes.

Union Comercio scored first, from a Rabanal header after very poor marking by the whole Universitario team. Mimbela received the ball unchallenged in the halfway mark in the field, advanced without a challenge for 10 yards, centered and Rabanal headed without a challenge.

Universitario, then took the game to Comercio and tied the game through a Denis penalty, but la “U” was disorganized and will need to improve a lot to challenge this year. The Universitario midfield was invisible today, with the forwards having to resolve everything without their support.

Game Rating: Mediocre

Melgar 0 vs Municipal 3

This score seems ludicrous but Melgar played with an almost 100% reserve side against a strong Municipal team that I am sure will challenge in 2019. Melgar has important Copa Libertadores match on Tuesday and decided to keep their main side rested. Municipal on the other hand, had the core of last year intact and brought in strong additions in Arevalo Rios, Jeremias Bogado and the resurgence of Ivan Bulos. Their underrated Peruvian coach, Victor Rivera finally has the players to challenge.

Buitrago had a blinder today with two assists in the Bulos and Flores goals. Melgar tried but did not have the resources today to stop a strong Municipal side.

Game Rating: Entertaining

Pirata FC  2 vs Real Garcilaso 1

Pirata Fc got an important first win in their debut in the First Division. Goals by Acuy and Canales were enough to give them the victory. Javier Núñez, ex Universitario discounted for Garcilaso. Next game for Pirata is against Universitario where we will see if they are the real deal.

Garcilaso manager Tapia is now under real pressure from the intolerant owners who are probably fuming after another loss by their club.

Game Rating: Unavailable (no TV transmission)

Alianza Universidad 0 vs Cantolao 0

Alianza Universidad returned to the 1st Division after 28 years and drew 0-0 vs Cantalao in a drab affair. Under a decent turnout by the fans, Alianza Universidad tried to break the deadlock with 10 players after Jose Rivas was sent in the 20th minute mark. Key player for Universidad was “Neka” Vilchez, ex Alianza Lima and Peru National side, but even he could not help his team to a return victory. Fair draw for two middle of the road teams.

Game Rating: Mediocre

Team of the week

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