Midway through his third full season as a Football Manager, Robinho Lazaró was finding the step up from the second to the first-tier of Chilean football pretty difficult. His Deportes Puerto Montt side sat two points outside the relegation zone with 15 games remaining and on the back of a battering at the champions.
In fairness to Lazaró, his coaches only thought one of his players – goalkeeper Eduardo Miranda – was of the quality required to be considered a Campeonato AFP PlanVital player. And, for context, their starting centre-back was on loan from a team below them in the league!
A month or so without a game gave the manager time to consider his tactical options, which included switching to three at the back.
More league misery
The second half of the season began at ninth-place Temuco, where striker Gabriel Harding finally scored his first goal for the club after 16 hours of trying! But it was in vain as his side lost 3-1. Another defeat followed at home to Unión, who scored a header and a penalty (standard), as Harding doubled his club tally in a 2-1 loss.
They then took a 27 shot to three battering at La Serena but only lost 1-0, but Harding hit the post clean through on goal in injury-time. That set a new Puerto Montt club record of seven successive defeats, including two pointless cup games. That trend continued in a pathetic 2-0 defeat at home to Palestino. Lazaró reached his 100th game in management in a trip to third-place Universidad Católica, which his side was a little unlucky to lose 1-0.
Amazingly, Puerto Montt still weren’t in the relegation zone despite losing seven straight league matches. But they would if they lost at home to 15th-place Unión Espanola. They took an absolute hammering in the first half but a stern teamtalk and throwing a third striker on saw homegrown Daniel Bahamonde score his first goal for the club (in his 14th appearance) to earn a draw. But they were back to losing at 12th-place Melipilla heading into a string of really tough games.
Lazaró didn’t mind admitting he was starting to panic and that showed as familiar face Yeiko Cartagena returned to the club on loan for the rest of the season. He was joined by a seventh loanee, striker Ronaldo Henríquez.
Surprise result amid more misery
After one of the worst runs in FM history, Puerto Montt now faced the daunting task of taking on all of the top three and four of the top seven in their next four games. They were lucky in that, for now, their fellow strugglers also continued to lose, and hopefully that would continue.
The tough run began at home to Colo Colo, who led early only for striker Vladimir Moragrega to equalise. But any hopes of a result were dashed by the visitors scoring three times in the final 11 minutes.
They then went to leaders Curicó Unido and surprisingly took the lead through Moragrega after six minutes. Even more surprisingly, the striker doubled the lead seven minutes later! Less surprisingly, Curicó went down the other end and scored but Puerto Montt soon restored the lead as captain Juan Ángel Vera headed home. Unfortunately, the players’ translation of “you’re doing brilliantly, keep going” was “concede four minutes into the second half.” But they managed to hang on for 41 minutes to claim a famous victory! And that ended a 10-match streak without a league win.
The reward? A trip to new leaders Antofagasta, where lightning struck twice as Moragrega put them ahead with their only shot of the first half. But this time there was no upset as the hosts won 2-1 after dominating with 24 shots to four.
Unfortunately, Unión Espanola went and won two in a row, which sent Puerto Montt down into the relegation zone. They trailed Espanola by three points and the relatively resurgent Nublense by four points heading into the final five games of the season.
Game 1 – Everton (home): The run-in began very poorly as Everton scored with their first shot from a corner and dominated but only led 1-0 at half-time. Completely against the run of play Harding ended his 11-hour goal drought before Moragrega hit the post. But Everton made their dominance count by nicking a 2-1 win. Unbelievably, Espanola beat second-place Universidad de Chile, which saw Puerto Montt move four points from safety.
Game 2 – Huachipato (away): They were again behind early, this time inside 65 seconds, at seventh-place Huachipato, who killed the game off with a penalty in first-half injury-time. Nublense lost to keep the gap at four points but Audax got two draws to send Puerto Montt bottom for the first time all season.
Game 3 – Audax Italiano (away): That teed up a huge relegation clash as bottom of the league visited next to bottom. A poor game was decided by a moment of real quality as Alfonso Sánchez struck a beauty from 25 yards to open the scoring on 78 minutes. And Henríquez scored on the counter to double the lead and seal a crucial 2-0 win. That moved Puerto Montt just one point away from survival heading into another massive relegation decider.
Game 4 – Deportes Nublense (home): The much-needed three points at Audax moved Puerto Montt just one point behind Nublense as the two sides faced off at Regional de Chinquihe. But bizarrely, there was a 28-day gap between the two matches and Puerto Montt hadn’t won at home in six months… And that continued as a 15th-minute penalty separated the two sides. And that, unfortunately, relegated Puerto Montt.
Puerto Montt were relegated from Campeonato AFP PlanVital.
The season rounded out with a great performance at home to Universidad de Chile, in which Moragrega and Henríquez had them 2-1 ahead before conceding a late equaliser.
That meant Puerto Montt finished next to bottom on 19 points from 30 games. However, 13 of the 16 teams failed the match day squad rules, which Lazaró believed should have relegated Nublense below Puerto Montt. Indeed, the docking of six points took Nublense took to 16 points – below Puerto Montt’s 19, but the table didn’t reflect it… How strange is that?
The fact remains that Nublense should have been relegated in Puerto Montt’s place, but weren’t. Which is highly controversial.
Going out on a low
Just as the end of season stretch was about to begin, Lazaró received his first interest from abroad as Argentine side Nueva Chicago (which is a cool name) randomly offered an interview. But they eventually rejected him for a less reputable Argentinian. However, when Católica sacked their manager, Lazaró decided to throw his hat into the ring. That didn’t go down too well with his board but immediately had the leading Chilean side’s supporters excited.
Católica offered an interview a few days ahead of the Audax clash. The board apparently liked what they heard from the young manager as they quickly came back with an offer that Lazaró signed before his side played that huge game. That meant Lazaró would depart Puerto Montt and become the new Universidad Católica boss at the end of the season – starting his second managerial role on 17 December 2024.
An interesting season saw Puerto Montt battle bravely against relegation but just fall short at the final hurdle. Moragrega led the way with nine goals, the closest to which was Harding’s three, which tells you everything you need to know about this team! Moragrega also led the way with just four assists, followed by Vilches – who’s considered a good third-tier player – and Sánchez on three.
Despite their controversial relegation, there was no doubting Lazaró had turned things around at Puerto Montt, especially with the club now £235,000 in the black and with a mad £500,000 transfer budget for the new manager to work with.
A look across the Americas
Argentina: Boca continue to dominate, leading by five points from River at the halfway stage having won the last four titles.
Brazil: Gremio won their first title since 1996, finishing three points clear of Santos. Lazaró’s former club Palmeiras were down in fifth but two of his signings Garcés and Sosa were wanted by Liverpool and Chelsea! And 37-year-old Brenner scored 33 in 64 matches.
Chile: Colo-Colo won the league, finishing 10 points clear of Católica. Sadly, Puerto Montt finished bottom of the league and were relegated back to the second tier.
Colombia: Atlético Nacional were champions after Junior FC won the Clausura stage. Nacional defeated América de Cali in the Finalización final.
México: Tigres just won the Clausura stage and Deportivo Guadalajara won the Apertura. Puebla finished the season down in 14th place.
Peru: Alianza Lima won a third successive title, finishing four points clear of Sporting Cristal after only losing once all season.
Uruguay: Nacional won their sixth title in nine years since Lazaró won the league with River Plate, finishing six points clear of Penarol. River Plate climbed to third, some 18 points back from Nacional.
USA: A Canadian side won MLS as CF Montréal beat Houston Dynamo 1-0 in the MLS Cup Final. NYRB improved to eight in the Eastern Conference, just one point outside the playoffs.
Robinho Lazaró’s first managerial role had been a blast with Puerto Montt. He’d managed 110 games, of which he won 48, drew 21 and lost 41, scored 152 and conceded 136 without spending a single penny. But his time at the club was at an end, and he moved to Universidad Católica as the 2024 campaign came to a close.
Discover the task awaiting him as he moves to the second club in his Aventuras Américas mission!