It's a long road back to get into the Copa Sudamericana Final for LDU Quito. Universidad de Chile, arguably the top team in all of South America at the moment for their league and continental form, will be taking a lead home to Santiago. Thanks to a first half goal by Eduardo Vargas, La U clinched a 1-0 win in Quito and will now be a massive favorite heading into the second leg.
The massive turning point in the match came at the end of the second half. The game was very even, perhaps slightly favoring Liga when Hernan Barcos missed an absolute sitter in the 42nd minute, skying a shot on a brilliant cross over the bar in front of an empty net.
La U took advantage instantly, scoring a goal less than a minute later. Albert Acevedo started the move by winning a header and Charles Aranguiz provided the assist, slotting a great through ball towards the edge of the penalty box for Vargas to run onto. Liga keeper Alexander Domínguez Carabalí came out for the ball, but Vargas rounded him easily and tapped the ball into the back of the net to give his side a 1-0 lead.
Down a goal, Liga took a risk, bringing on Luís Bolaños at halftime. Though Barcos has scored 23 goals this season, Bolaños is arguably their best player. He suffered a serious knee injury earlier in the season and was thought to be done until late January or early February, but got fit enough to make the bench and enter the match.
He was brilliant in the opening minutes, starting attacks with dribbling moves and drawing a couple of yellow cards, but Jorge Sampaoli's substitutions made things difficult for Liga late as La U held onto their lead. So successful was La U at holding onto their lead that the highlight of the last 10 minutes was a pitch invader running onto the pitch and Tebowing - dropping to one knee, putting his hand on his chin and praying like gridiron player Tim Tebow - before he was escorted out of the stadium.
Liga created 18 shots, but most of them came from long range. Johnny Herrera only looked bothered on a couple of occasions, though the home side did miss a couple of solid chances. Their finishing was poor on the night, and they'll need something special in Santiago to lift the trophy. After 90 minutes, Sampaoli's boys have one hand on the cup.