Photo Courtesy: ADFP-SD
The Segunda División regular season has come to an end, and the finale was full of exciting events on and off the pitch.
Off the pitch, three different last-minute decisions where taken in ongoing cases, which affected the table. Most importantly, the Peruvian Federation’s Court of Justice gave Carlos A. Mannucci all three points and a 3-0 win in its game against Alfredo Salinas for Matchday 19. This meant relegation for the Espinar side, one day before the last match of the season.
On the pitch, Serrato Pacasmayo lost 11-0 to Unión Huaral and thus broke the all-time record for most goals conceded in any professional Peruvian football tournament with 115 goals. It stole the honour from Bella Esperanza, a club that currently plays in the Copa Peru, but participated in the second division in the early 2000’s.
With the relegation battle off the table, we could then turn our attention to the Liguilla battle. Atlético Grau destroyed Los Caimanes by 5-1, which was not enough to clinch a spot in the top seven. César Vallejo drew 1-1 with its cross-town rival Carlos A. Mannucci in a very anti-climactic derby.
In Cusco, Cienciano defeated Santa Rosa 4-0, while Aianza Atlético settled for a scoreless draw against Hualgayoc on the road. Juan Aurich had a field day against Sport Loreto, defeating them 6-3. The latter came onto the pitch with a huge weight off its shoulders as it was an indirect beneficiary of the court’s decision against Alfredo Salinas. Lastly, Deportivo Coopsol finished another unimpressive campaign in the second division by defeating Sport Victoria 2-0.
As the Peruvian federation and the tournament organizers had announced previously, Hualgayoc was disqualified from advancing to the playoffs because of their outstanding debts. Thus, the miracle came late for Atlético Grau on Monday as they replaced Hualgayoc.
In the end (seeds in brackets), Unión Huaral (No. 4) will face Juan Aurich (No. 6). César Vallejo (No. 1) quietly awaits the winner of this match. Carlos A. Mannucci (No. 2) will face Atlético Grau (No. 8) and Cienciano (No. 3) will face Alianza Atlético (No. 7).
The quarterfinals are key as the three teams that manage to advance, and Vallejo, will see their chance of reaching the first division greatly increased as the tournament expands to 18 teams in 2019.
The winner of the Liguilla will advance directly, while the next two teams will be placed in the promotion playoff. They’ll be joined by the Copa Peru’s second and third-place sides. It is no secret that the Segunda División teams are much more equipped than their Copa Peru counterparts, though.
Rivalry-wise, the Mannucci-Grau match will be the most intriguing. Both teams are the biggest and most important teams in their respective cities. They have a long history of facing each other in the Primera División from the late 60’s to the early 90’s and in the Copa Perú since 2000.
This season, Mannucci first defeated Grau by 4-1 in Trujillo. Then Grau defeated Mannucci by 2-0 in the second leg. Grau, the golden ticket recipient, will have to be careful of Mannucci’s attack as the latter finished the regular season with a plus-36 goal difference. The first game will be in Piura, so if Grau manage to capitalize, they can aim for a draw on the road. Nevertheless, Mannucci has a better chance of progressing.
Unión Huaral-Juan Aurich will be the most evenly matched pair of all the quarterfinals. Huaral defeated Aurich by 1-0 at home and then Aurich returned the favour in Chiclayo. Similarly, their stadiums are both on the coastal region of the country.
The Cienciano-Alianza Atlético match is a whole different story. The gap between the two teams’ seasons was eight points. Cienciano had a rough start but was very close to stealing the top spot from César Vallejo. Alianza, on the other hand, was the last passenger on board. Its season went from mediocre to good once they were able to return to the Campeones del 36. Curiously, Alianza managed to pull a 1-1 draw in Cusco but were battered 4-0 in Sullana by Cienciano. It is more than likely that the Cusco side will be the one advancing to the semifinals.