The Venezuelan top-flight, the Primera División (or the Liga Movistar, if you prefer to please the sponsors), began last weekend (9-10 August). While this site can not promise to provide comprehensive coverage of the league, it does intend to post at least one weekly round-up of the action for an English-speaking audience, with a particular focus on the top teams, the most interesting stories and, of course, the top native players who are most likely to feature for La Vinotinto. If you would like to have a firm idea over who the best teams and players are, as well as how the league is structured, feel free to have a look at the Introduction to the Primera División posted on this site. More succinct guides and profiles should be provided as the season progresses, but with the preamble now out of the way, let’s get on to the highlights of the first week:
Results – Week 1
9 August 2014
Aragua 1-2 Trujillanos
10 August 2014
Zulia 0-1 Deportivo Petare
Tucanes 1-1 Carabobo
Portuguesa 1-0 Llaneros de Guanare
Caracas 0-1 Estudiantes de Mérida
Deportivo La Guaira 3-2 Deportivo Anzoátegui
Mineros de Guayana 1-0 Metropolitanos
Deportivo Táchira 3-0 Atlético Venezuela
Zamora 1-1 Deportivo Lara
Mineros de Guayana, many people’s favourite for the championship, had to wait until the last quarter of the game but eventually international midfielder Rafael Acosta was on hand to strike a loose ball with his left boot low into the back of the net to get former national manager Richard Páez’s men off the mark. Mineros are unsurprisingly blessed with home-grown talent of an international standard and thus alongside Acosta in the starting line-up were Edgar Jiménez, Ángelo Peña and Richard Blanco – all of whom have been called up to be evaluated by Noel Sanvicente and his team. Notable absentees included the goalkeeper Rafael Romo – recently returning on loan from Udinese – and injured defender Gabriel Cichero, who has also recently returned from a spell in Europe, in his case with Sion, Nantes and Lens. A word of praise must also briefly go to former international defender Luis Vallenilla (77 caps), who played the full 90 minutes at the age of 40 and, it could be said, won the battle of the veterans against Atlético’s 41 year-old defender, David McIntosh, a man who earned his 26 caps way back in 1996-1999 but had his international career curtailed just when Venezuela were starting to shake off their reputation as regional whipping-boys.
Nevertheless, Mineros and all of their stars were somewhat overshadowed this weekend by Deportivo Táchira and their prolific leading man, Gelmín Rivas, who scored a hat-trick in the 3-0 victory over Atlético Venezuela with all three goals bearing the hallmark of a deadly target man who will instinctively and instantly punish any slackness in the opposition’s backline. His first goal was a towering header from a cross by club legend Gerson Chacón (currently in his fourth spell at the side), the second an opportunistic finish that was lashed home after the ball fell kindly to him from a free-kick and the third also came from a free-kick, this one bouncing in the box to be powered home at the far post with the chest of Rivas. The striker has much competition in the national squad but at the age of 25 he may feel he is close to hitting peak form and, given Sanvicente’s experience and interest in the domestic league, could well receive more opportunities with the selección than he has in the past. His goals will also be crucial to the league and Libertadores campaigns mounted by Táchira, as will the form of José Contreras, Carlos Rivero, Wilker Ángel, Agnel Flores, César González and Yohandry Orozco – all of whom started at the weekend and have been called-up to at least one of the two groups of domestic players to be evaluated by Sanvicente and co. Doubtless that with Táchira being some people’s tip for the title, we will be getting to know these players much better in the upcoming months.
Elsewhere, champions for the past two seasons Zamora FC, struggled to come to terms with the loss of a few star players to European teams as well as manager Sanvicente to the national side as they needed a penalty deep into stoppage time to salvage a point in a 1-1 draw at home to Deportivo Lara. Before the game, Sanvicente received tributes on the pitch but it is difficult to gauge how he would have felt about seeing what is still largely his collection of players struggle 1-0 down for over an hour with the 30-game undefeated home run in the league that he initiated on the line. When the spot-kick was won, it came a few minutes after Zamora had been reduced to ten men and was awarded after what some feel was, at best, minimal contact on Jhon Murillo, last season’s Young Player of the Season and one of three Vinotinto preliminary squad members who started, alongside Arles Flores and Johan Moreno. Whilst the Argentine Javier López stepped up to convert the penalty and thus maintain the record, new manager Juvencio Betancourt will certainly have a clearer idea of the scale of the task at hand as he attempts to fill seemingly impossibly large shoes.
Finally, last year’s Copa Venezuela winners Caracas FC went down to a surprise home lost against Estudiantes de Mérida, whose win came thanks to a 17-second optimistic strike from over 25 yards by Over García. This was a setback for a team hoping to push on from last season and gain qualification to the Libertadores, though it is possible that the upcoming two-legged Copa Sudamericana clash against Inti Gas Deportes of Peru was bearing on their minds. Indeed, it was due to this tie that no first-team players were called up for Sanvicente’s two squads of players for evaluation though Caracas are certainly not short of international experience and potential, with Rómulo Otero and Dany Cure amongst the names to keep an eye out for this season.
14 August 2014
Caracas 3-1 Metropolitanos
Caracas took the opportunity to redeem themselves after coming from a goal behind to give Metropolitanos their second defeat in as many games with Giacomo Di Giorgio, an experienced 33 year-old with a respectable amount of caps, amongst those on the scoresheet. This game was the only one to be played in midweek due to the fixture problems created by the Copa Sudamericana matches soon to be played by Caracas on Thursdays 21 and 28 August, leading to them avoiding league action on the weekend in between those two games (as will Metropolitanos).
That’s all for the first week but hopefully you have found this article in some way enlightening. Check back for the next update in the next few days and follow the Hispanospherical account on Twitter if you would like a partial drip-feed of some of the highlights that are likely to feature in that particular article.