Thursday 22 February 2018

Chile hoping Sanchez regains form for Copa final

Alexis Sanchez
Alexis Sanchez

Jamie Holland

Chile need Alexis Sanchez to recover his best form if they are to end an almost century-long wait for a first Copa America, according to coach Jorge Sampaoli.

"When Alexis is not in the fullness (of form), Chile feel it," said Sampaoli after his team booked his place in the decider with a somewhat fortuitous 2-1 win over Peru.

"If he is feeling good, he's the most decisive player in this team. We must recover him well because he's vital to us," added the Argentinian, who suggested that the pressure of playing in front of the fanatical home fans was affecting the team.

Sanchez has shown flashes of his class in the tournament but has contributed only one of Chile's 13 goals in five matches.

Eduardo Vargas' match-winning double was overshadowed by an early refereeing decision that turned the game the hosts' way.

Carlos Zambrano's harsh sending-off for a high tackle after 20 minutes was the second game in a row that Chile's rivals were hit with a controversial red card.

The decision was a hard one to swallow for Peru, who in spite of being underdogs had started well in front of a capacity crowd at Santiago's National Stadium.

"I think Zambrano's expulsion was a bit tough," Peru striker Paolo Guerrero told television cameras.

"I don't want to complain about the refereeing but there were a lot of unexpected decisions. If it had been 11 against 11 it would have been a different story."

Chile's opponents in last week's quarter-final, Uruguay, were reduced to nine men in controversial fashion with Edinson Cavani and Jorge Fucile being sent off in Santiago.

Cavani's red card came after Chile defender Gonzalo Jara stuck a finger up the striker's backside. When he responded with the slightest of touches Jara fell to the ground theatrically, prompting the referee to send off the Uruguayan.

Peru refused to cave in after Zambrano's dismissal and matched their hosts in a pulsating first half.

But just when it looked like the teams would go in all square at half-time Chile took the lead when Vargas poked the ball home from three yards after a Sanchez cross had come back off an upright.

Television replays showed Vargas was marginally offside, but justice seemed to be done seconds into the second half when he had what looked like a legitimate goal chalked off for offside.

Peru came back into the game and equalised on the hour mark when Guerrero split the Chilean defence with a pass to Luis Advincula. He whipped in a cross from the right that Gary Medel turned into his own net.

Peru's lead lasted just four minutes, however, and again it was Vargas who did the damage as he picked up the ball in midfield and lashed home an unstoppable strike from 30 yards.

Irish Independent

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