Chile 1-0 Switzerland
Attendance – 34,872
A dejected Benaglio covers his face after conceding
Switzerland’s defence was finally breached as Mark Gonzalez nodded in a deserved winner for Chile. The Swiss had defended stoutly with only 10 men since Valon Behrami had seen red for an apparent elbow in the 31st minute, but couldn’t quite escape with a clean sheet.
South African born Gonzalez rose to head home an Esteban Paredes cross as the Chilean substitutes combined well to finally break the deadlock. In holding the Chileans past the 67 minute mark, Switzerland set a new record for the longest run without conceding a goal at the World Cup finals, encompassing the 2006 finals in Germany where four clean sheets were achieved.
The result leaves Chile in charge at the top of Group H, however with Spain up next in their final group match and Switzerland facing Honduras, the qualification places are far from decided.
The contest had the ingredients for a lively affair; with the attack-minded Chileans taking the game to the defensively organised Swiss, however, the middle man in charge of the match was to play a significant role. Saudi referee, Khalil Al Ghamdi, was a constant interference on the game.
With just 2 minutes on the clock, the first card of the match was waved in Humberto Suazo’s direction following a raised foot, which ultimately set the tone for the referee’s performance. Swiss striker Blaise Nkufo quickly found his name taken for pulling his marker’s shirt, as the strict refereeing continued.
In-between the regular whistle blowing hold ups, it was Chile who started the brighter forcing a double save out of Diego Benaglio in the Swiss goal. First he beat away Arturo Vidal’s curling effort and was then quick to react to Carlos Carmona’s powerfully struck attempt from the rebound.
Two bookings were shown in quick succession as the production line of cards showed no sign of halting; Carmona hauled down Behrami with a reckless challenge in what was the first challenge recognisably worthy of a booking, which rules him out of the final group game against Spain. He was quickly followed by team mate, Waldo Ponce into the referee’s notebook, punished for a high foot. A loose pass-back nearly gifted the Swiss an opening goal, but Claudio Bravo was alert and quick off his line to deny the on-rushing Nkufo.
The pivotal moment arrived on 31 minutes as the increasingly inevitable took place, as Behrami was the unlucky man to be dismissed. Behrami fended off the pressure applied by firstly Jean Beausejour and then Vidal with his arm, with both Chileans reacted eccentrically following the minimal contact. The assistant referee immediately intervened and the West Ham man was instantly shown red, sending the Swiss camp into fury.
Valon Behrami cannot believe he has been dismissed
Tranquillo Barnetta was brought on in the place of the returning Alexander Frei on 42 minutes, as they reverted to a 4-4-1 formation. Chile upped the tempo and created decent chances as half time approached. Suazo failed to keep his headed attempt down after Beausejour had fashioned a great cross from the left and Alexis Sanchez fired straight at Benaglio after bringing down a cross neatly on his chest.
Chile made two attacking changes at the break as they looked to utilise their numerical advantage, and they thought they’d made the breakthrough early on as Alexis Sanchez’s shot deflected past Benaglio, but his celebrations were cut short as three Chile players were in offside positions. Meanwhile, Barnetta was the next to be added to the booked player column as he pulled down Beausejour. Chile continued to press forward and a mistake by Steve von Bergen enabled Sanchez to run through on goal, but he slightly over-ran it and allowed Benaglio to block at his feet.
The stop-start nature of the game continued with the card-happy referee adding Gokhan Inler, Gary Medel and Matias Fernandez to his naughty list. Most baffling off his latest decisions was Fernandez’s booking, for which no offence was obvious, he now also misses the Spain clash.
As Chile’s frustrations began to show, the breakthrough finally arrived as substitute Paredes nipped through the Swiss backline to round the on-rushing Benaglio, pushed out wide, he kept a calm head to find fellow sub Gonzalez with a pinpoint cross for him to head home the crucial goal. Replays showed Paredes was marginally offside as he made his run, but Chile’s perseverance and dominance allays them of their stroke of luck.
Mark Gonzalez nods in the winning goal
The Swiss sent on forwards Erin Derdiyok and Albert Bunjaku in search of an unlikely equaliser, but it was Chile substitute Paredes that should have ended the contest on two occasions. A thumping volley cleared goalkeeper and crossbar firstly, following good play by Gonzalez, then moments later Paredes cut inside well before shooting inches wide.
Chile’s wasteful finishing was nearly punished in the 90th minute as Switzerland fashioned their best attempt of the match. A delightful back-heel by Bunjaku found Derdiyok in acres of space 12 yards from goal, but his side-footed effort drifted the wrong side of Bravo’s post as Switzerland missed the opportunity to snatch a point.
It was fitting that the Saudi official would have the last impact on the game as he produced his final yellow card to Jorge Valdivia for diving in the box, in what was his best decision all day.
Chile – Bravo, Ponce, Isla, Medel, Jara, Carmona, Vidal (Gonzalez, 46), Fernandez (Paredes, 65), Sanchez, Suazo (Valdivia, 46), Beausejour
Booked – Suazo, Carmona, Ponce, Fernandez, Medel, Valdivia
Switzerland – Benaglio, Lichtsteiner, Grichting, von Bergen, Ziegler, Behrami, Inler, Huggel, Fernandes (Bunjaku, 77), Frei (Barnetta, 42), Nkufo (Derdiyok, 68)
Booked – Inler, Barnetta, Nkufo
Sent Off – Behrami