EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - MAY 07: Adolfo Bautista #15 of Mexico salutes the crowd after their game against Ecuador during the 2010 FMF U.S. Tour on May 7, 2010 at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Here in Part 2 we continue our recap of the best moments from the past season. Yesterday in Part 1 we looked at the first half of the Top 10, and today we reveal the five best moments from the 2011 Apertura.
5. Sinha Single-Handedly Takes on Santos
In the opening minutes of Toluca's October 15th game against Santos, viewers were treated to a moment of brilliance so stunning that it seemed to stretch the limits of plausibility. Receiving the ball on a run into the box, Toluca's Antonio "Sinha" Naelson headed towards the right corner, before cutting back to his left through traffic. With green and white shirts collapsing on him from all angles, Sinha proceeded to calmly dribble around, over, and through nearly the entire Santos roster. Reaching the penalty spot, he completed his journey with a full 360-degree turn before unleashing a low shot that somehow found the perfect route to the lower left corner of the goal. Did that really just happen? Less a football play and more a scene from a Matrix movie, Sinha's goal instantly became the top individual display of the tournament. And while Santos would ultimately come back and win the match 3-2 courtesy of a late stoppage-time goal, the final result almost became an afterthought. The big postgame story was Sinha's goal. With his astonishing display of skill, the veteran Toluca midfielder showed that even on the downside of a long career, he still has the ability to compete at the highest of levels.
4. Morelia Scrambles to Qualify for Liguilla
From the end of Round 10 all the way through the conclusion of Round 16, Morelia remained outside of the top eight and in no position to qualify for the Liguilla playoffs. In 12th place with just one week remaining in the season, Monarcas were barely mentioned in any discussions of the postseason picture. Luckily for them, that final week would prove to be something special. On Tuesday November 1st, Morelia played the conclusion of a game against Santos suspended back in August due to violence outside the stadium in Torreon. A 2-0 win gave them three points and a prayer of a chance. Then, just three days later, Morelia pulled off a 1-0 victory in a desperate must-win match against a strong Jaguares side. By the time the weekend’s games concluded Morelia had played themselves into the playoffs, finishing the season in seventh place. The team seems to be coming together at the perfect time, ending the Apertura on a six match run without a loss. Ultimately, though, it was those successful final few days of the season that gave last year’s Liguilla runners-up another shot at the Primera trophy.
3. Super Jaguares Destroy Club America
Jaguares were supposed to be focused on fighting against relegation this season, not competing for a championship. But thanks to some shrewd offseason signings (Luis Gabriel Rey, Franco Arizala, etc), the club from Chiapas demolished all expectations and ended up challenging for the league title. No game this season announced their arrival louder than the 5-3 victory over Club America on September 17th. Playing at home inside Estadio Victor Manuel Reyna, the Jaguares attack ran wild. Two goals came courtesy of Edgar Andrade, while Franco Arizala, Christian Valdez, and Jackson Martinez all poured in one each. This offensive explosion was no fluke, either. Jaguares finished the Apertura as the second-highest scoring team in the league, increasing their goal total by an impressive thirteen over the previous season. While the win over the Aguilas was a memorable moment for Jaguares, it was a low point in a season of disappointments for Club America. The loss resulted in the immediate firing of America manager Carlos Reinoso, and while Jaguares ended the season with a trip to the Liguilla, America went on to finish in lowly 17th place.
2. Four Goals in Opening 20 Minutes of Super Clasico
Usually when a team towards the top of the table faces off against a team near the bottom of the standings, it's not much of an event. But when those two teams are Chivas and Club America -- and the media turns their collective hype knobs up to eleven -- the match is raised to an entirely new level. Fortunately for viewers of this season's installment of the Super Clasico, the opening twenty minutes provided as much action as the rivalry's last few years combined. Just over five minutes in, Antonio Gallardo opened the scoring with a perfect header off a cross from Marco Fabian. Seven minutes later America striker Christian "Chucho" Benitez answered with an impressive header of his own. The 1-1 scoreline would last for just five minutes, though. In a wild one minute sequence to follow, Chivas would take firm control of the game behind goals from Marco Fabian and Erick "Cubo" Torres. Just 20 minutes in and the two sides had already matched the goal scoring total of the three previous Clasicos combined. While the 3-1 scoreline would hold up until the final whistle, the opening minutes of the match will undoubtedly live on for years in the annals of Clasico history. More importantly for Chivas fans, the win over their biggest rival propelled them back into the top spot in the standings, a position they never relinquished for the remainder of the season.
1. Bofo Scores (?!), Queretaro Advances to Liguilla
Six hundred and sixteen days. Prior to the final Saturday of the Apertura 2011 season that's exactly how long it had been since Queretaro's Adolfo "Bofo" Bautisa last scored a goal in the Mexican Primera. During this epic drought Bofo played in the World Cup as well as a Copa Libertadores final, but in true enigmatic fashion went scoreless domestically and ended up being shipped off to Queretaro like an old horse out to pasture. Battling injuries for much of this season with the Gallos Blancos, Bofo was finally able to (at least temporarily) silence his critics by scoring a goal at the most opportune time. In true Bofo dramatic fashion, it was almost as if he waited until the best possible moment to break his goalless streak. With Queretaro's season hanging in the balance, in the second half of the final game of the season (anything less than a win removed any possibility of a Liguilla trip), a saved ball from Estudiantes goalkeeper Christian Martinez fell to Bofo's feet just inside the penalty area. The ensuing blast from Bofo’s right foot was never in doubt, exploding into the back of the net behind the power of 616 days of frustrations. Ever the showman, Bofo immediately fell to his knees and threw his arms to the heavens as his teammates piled on. This may have been Bofo's moment, but there was a larger historical shift at work as well. Bofo's goal was the night's game-winner (a 3-0 defeat of Estudiantes Tecos), and the win proved just enough to qualify Queretaro for their first ever Liguilla in club history. For Bofo, all that was needed was one goal to cement his unlikely status as permanent Gallos Blancos legend. Would you have it any other way?
Relive the magic of Bofo's goal 9 seconds into the clip below: