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Melgar opened their Clausura with a dramatic 2-1 victory over Universitario, who were reduced to 10 men in the closing stages of the match.
Tulio Etchemaite scored the winner on his debut for Melgar, snatching all three points in what was a very intriguing match from both sides.
The notable addition to Melgar’s lineup was obviously Etchemaite, with Los Arequipeños lined up in a 4-4-2, according to GOLPERU. However, Hernán Torres tweaked the formation once the match kicked off.
Nicolás Córdova stuck to his 4-3-3 with new signings Germán Denis and Pablo Lavandeira on the bench. Both players eventually played a role in the second half.
The Etchemaite Effect
Etchemaite could prove to be a very effective signing for Melgar. He had 12 goals in 19 matches with Sport Rosario, and with the likes of Patricio Arce taking on more creative responsibility, this could help the Arequipa-based club make a push for the Clausura.
However, what immediately stood out was Etchemaite’s movement. With La U’s defence playing a bit further up the pitch, the Melgar forward would lurk around the centre, then execute a darting run towards the edge of the box, thus spreading out Universitario’s back line.
A secondary runner, usually one of Arce, Alexis Arias, Pablo Míguez or Bernardo Cuesta would dart into the box to latch onto a pass from Etchemaite. Christofer Gonzáles, who also came over from Sport Rosario, forced a save from Raúl Fernández in a similar situation.
This was especially helpful for Melgar because Arquímedes Figuera and Enmanuel Paucar sat so deep, there was very little room to run in the half-spaces.
Due to the altitude in Arequipa, Nicolás Córdova abandoned his possession-based system in favour of a more direct approach.
Right-back Aldo Corzo was asked to drift forward quite often. There were actually moments when he’d be positioned higher up the field than the actual wingers in Javier Nuñez and Roberto Siucho. Unfortunately for La U, it left them heavily exposed on their right flank.
The high line also doesn’t help in these situations for obvious reasons.
Thankfully for La U, these attacks improved after a rough opening 15 minutes. Siucho (moving to the right) and Nuñez (to the left) swapped flanks. The Peru international was heavily fouled on the left side, so the switch benefitted him the most.
However, Diego Manicero proved to be an inadequate playmaker (not for the first time) and Daniel Chávez was reduced to lurking around the box for crosses, which Melgar goalkeeper Diego Penny easily caught.
Finally, Denis replaced Chávez after 56 minutes. Moments later, the breakthrough arrived via the right flank. Corzo won a header off Fernández’s long pass, Denis picked out Siucho, who delivered a perfect cross for Paucar which eventually landed at Nuñez foot for a powerful finish.
Those incisive runs, which Chávez was rarely involved in as was the rest of the attack, led to one of the brightest moments of the match for La U and they scored.
When examining the average positioning, Chávez and Manicero were dropping far too deep. Once Denis and Lavandeira entered, there was more space for everybody.
It’ll be interesting to see Lavandeira and Denis from the off, especially because they both fill clear needs. More central influence could transform this Universitario attack, and bolster the possession-oriented style that Córdova prefers as well.
The needless red card to Figuera opened the door for Melgar, who were on the back foot after a decent first half. Even the opener from Cuesta was a bit fortuitous.
Gonzáles was given time and space to shoot from distance, allowing him to smack the crossbar. Fernández attempted to tip the ball, so when it landed on Cuesta’s foot, the striker had an open goal to shoot into from just outside the area.
Remember Etchemaite’s movement from before? Those same runs paid off at the death, as he split the defence and made no mistake to wrap up the victory for Melgar.
This is where Alberto Rodríguez’s signing may come in handy for Universitario. He’s dominant in the air, and you can guarantee this wouldn’t have occurred with El Mudo on the pitch.
La U actually played quite well, especially with Denis on the pitch. Whenever he dropped deep, he was involved in the build-up play, and both young wingers excelled in a tough environment.
Both new signings were pivotal in this game. Between Etchemaite’s off-the-ball intelligence and Denis’s surprisingly solid debut, Melgar and Universitario’s attacks could look a lot different in the Clausura.