The Liga Águila is at its halfway point and the tension is high, with favourites Independiente Medellin, Atlético Nacional and Independiente Santa Fe lurking at the top of the table.
But there is also a surprising candidate in the top tier: Alianza Petrolera are leading the pack. The team from one of the hottest cities in Colombia, Barrancabermeja, can thank its very solid defence for getting so many points on the board. The petroleros were promoted to the league for the first time in 2012.
Alianza started a big renovation of the stadium in the year they got promoted and have been travelling around the country since. They played home games in Envigado and Guarne, within striking distance of Medellin. They played two seasons in Yopal, Casanare, and moved to Floridablanca, Bucaramanga, in 2014. Since April this year, they have been back in their own stadium in Barrancabermeja – and the home air seems to suit them.
Manager Oscar Upegui has a group of promising players to work with. Defender Felipe Aguilar is one of the most gifted young defenders in the country, currently training with the Colombian under-23 squad who are preparing for the Olympic Games play-offs, together with striker Arley Rodriguez and offensive midfielder Juan
Pablo Nieto. Central midfielder, the 22-year-old Rafael Carrascal, commands the tempo of the game. ‘Los Aurinegros’ are aiming for their first ever top eight qualification in the final stages of the season.
Millonarios are facing a more difficult situation. ‘Los embajadores’ from the capital gave Argentine manager Ricardo Lunari his marching orders after a disappointing start to the season. The reality is that aside from goalkeeper Nicolás Vikonis, none of the players have had a convincing season so far. The Uruguayan stopper is the exception – he has been outstanding, preventing ‘los embajadores’ game after game from being even lower in the table. With Uruguayan Ruben Israel at the helm they aim to make their way up the table to be in a position to fight for the top eight places.
Cortulua, who was off to a good start this season is on it’s way down after some poor performances.
With the second half of the season to come, Millonarios still have the opportunity to claw their way back up and it will be interesting to see if Alianza Petrolera can remain at the top or if they will slide down the table. The Bogota Post will keep following the league from closeby.
by Freek Huigen