O’Higgins FC ran out comfortable 2-0 winners over County Tyrone in what proved to be an entertaining affair at the Ballymena Showgrounds on Wednesday evening.
The opening exchanges were tentative with neither side really threatening to make much of an impact on goal. The first real chance came on 8 minutes when the game sparked into life as O’Higgins striker David Andres Salazar raced clear of the County Tyrone defence but shot straight at the goalkeeper.
The Chilean side duly took the lead on 24 minutes with a stunning free kick from all of 20 yards from Matias Francisco Meneses. This was a real classy finish and the O’Higgins playmaker celebrated in style. Menses almost repeated the trick right on the stroke of half time but this time his effort from slightly further out rattled against the crossbar to no avail.
Tyrone came out for the second half all guns blazing and almost equalised right from the off but were denied by a superb double save from the O’Higgins goalkeeper Luis Alfonso Ureta, the second stop in particular from the ground to prevent Dylan O’Hagan from scoring was absolutely world class. Tyrone kept up there spell of pressure and came close once more through a free kick from Stuart Morland but the midfielder’s effort flashed just wide of goal.
Sensing the danger of a possible Tyrone equaliser, O’Higgins upped their play by another gear and began to assert their authority on the match. This was epitomised through number 11, Matias Ignacio Sepulveda whose close control and trickery on the ball was a joy to watch.
O’Higgins wrapped up proceedings with a well taken goal in the last minute, a burst of pace from substitute winger Matias Bastian Recabal took him past his marker before delivering an exquisite cut back cross for fellow sub Valther Nicolas Rozas to convert on the rebound.
Recabal almost scored himself deep into injury time but his speculative volleyed effort on the turn flew just over the bar with the referee blowing for full time shortly after.
This was a deserved win for O’Higgins whose flair on the ball was something not often witnessed in this part of the world. Credit too must go to County Tyrone who battled well throughout and were unlucky not to at least register on the scoresheet; mainly due to the heroics of Ureta in the O’Higgins goal.
Match Report by Jordan Miller. (@jordan_859)