(Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
The big story of Round 13 in Mexico was of course the always over-hyped Super Clasico between Chivas and Club America. This year, though, the game actually lived up to its billing. An outstanding performance from young Erick Torres helped lead Chivas to a 3-0 win over their rivals. While a great individual performance and an enjoyable match overall, this was not the only big story of the weekend. Pumas UNAM beat UANL Tigres in a top of the standings clash, Cruz Azul stumbled again at home against Morelia, Atlante reclaimed the top spot in Group 2, and Pachuca stayed alive behind a great individual performance from Herculez Gomez. Here we take a look back at all the big stories from Round 13 of the Mexican Primera Clausura 2011 season
Cubo’s "Classic" Performance
Clasico games are where legends are made. On Sunday evening in Guadalajara, young Erick "Cubo" Torres added his name to the list of Chivas greats by leading his team to a decisive 3-0 victory over rivals Club America. The 18-year-old Chivas striker was already marked as the heir apparent to Chicharito, and on Sunday he showed why. In the first half Torres opened the scoring with a perfect header off a pass from Xavi Baez. While the physical America defense did their best to rough Torres up as much as possible throughout the game (including a punch to the face courtesy of Diego Cervantes), the youngster never lost his cool. In the second half it was Torres again doing the work, this time setting up Marco Fabian for a score. Chivas then went on to add a third, another from Fabian, putting an exclamation point on what was a dominant all-around team performance.
The match was one of the better Clasicos in recent memory, and we mostly have Torres to thank. Already a young Chivas legend, Torres will now try to cement his status by leading the team to a championship. Sunday’s win leaves Chivas in fourth place in the overall league table, ahead of both Monterrey and Cruz Azul on goal differential. Even with a few more difficult games to come, Chivas are in great position to make a trip back to the Liguilla after missing out on the playoffs last season. For more on the Super Clasico, check out the reports from FMF State of Mind’s own Tom Marshall, who was in attendance at Estadio Omnilife. Read his pregame, halftime, and postgame updates.
A Championship Rematch
A rematch of last season’s championship between Monterrey and Santos Laguna didn’t quite live up to its billing. Both teams brought less than full-strength rosters, with several key players watching from the bench. Santos was without Carlos Darwin Quintero due to suspension, but also rested several players suffering from a range of injuries, including Christian Benitez, Fernando Arce, and Oswaldo Sanchez. Monterrey went without Aldo de Nigris, Ricardo Osorio, and Luis Perez. Humberto Suazo did start for the Rayados, but after a tough recent schedule the Monterrey striker, along with the rest of the team, came out a bit flat.
Santos were able to take advantage and grab an early lead courtesy of a goal from Oribe Peralta. Later in the half Monterrey struck back, with Jesus Arellano following up a Dario Carreno shot that missed off the post. That proved to be the end of the scoring for both teams. Interestingly, Suazo was subbed out at halftime for Sergio Santana and never returned to the Monterrey bench. Instead, he actually left the stadium prior to the end of the match without notifying manager Victor Vucetich or his teammates. Later it was also revealed that Suazo is still having trouble with his shoulder, an injury that’s given him problems through much of this season. He will be further evaluated this week by specialists, as well as the Chilean national team doctor, and may end up having season-ending surgery. This would be a huge blow to a team that is contending for a league championship, and also has an upcoming date in the CONCACAF Champions league finals against Real Salt Lake. Either way, Suazo will certainly miss both Monterrey league games this week.
Top of the Table Clash
When Pumas and Tigres met on Sunday afternoon, it is was a match-up of not just the top two teams in the league standings, but also two of the best defenses in Mexico. Each team’s backline showed why they are among the best in the league, with both units neutralizing the opposing attack until very late in the match. Pumas played a slightly more defensive strategy than in recent weeks, dropping Paco Palencia back rather than play with their usual three-man front line. The more conservative strategy proved effective, and helped to neutralize the dangerous Tigres counter attack. Neither team was able to break through until the 89th minute, when an absolute rocket of a left-footed strike by Israel Castro gave Pumas the lead. In stoppage time, Pumas added a second goal after Javier Cortes was brought down in the box by Alberto Acosta. Juan Carlos Cacho converted the penalty with a clever little chip shot, and Pumas walked away with the important 2-0 home win. The win keeps Pumas in first place in the league standings, and following last weekend’s defeat to Jaguares, proves that they are still the team to beat.
Atlante Back on Top
With only four games left to play this season, Atlante are surprisingly back in first place of Group 2. A decisive 3-1 win over Atlas in Cancun on Saturday night brought the Potros back into the top spot of the group standings. With winnable games against Queretaro and Necaxa coming during the next week, Atlante have a great chance to hold on to their unlikely position.
On Saturday, Atlante were aided by a straight red card shown to Atlas’s Edgar Pacheco for a dangerous challenge just a few minutes into the match (it was a challenge viewers never saw, because as usual Telefutura decided to start their live coverage a full six minutes into the match). Playing with the man advantage, Atlante were led by scores from Francisco "Kikin" Fonseca and Giancarlo Maldonado, as well as an Atlas own goal, to take a 3-0 lead. For Fonseca, it was his fifth goal in the last four games. If Atlante can hold this form over the next few weeks, the team has a real shot at doing something special this season. They can’t afford to slip up in their winnable games this week, though, as the tight Group 2 standings leave absolutely no margin for error.
Another Blue Machine Breakdown
Cruz Azul continued their recent stretch of misery this weekend, losing 3-2 at home to Monarcas Morelia. After dropping a game last week against Santos in league play and being eliminated by Monterrey in the CONCACAF Champions League, Cruz Azul again came up short on Saturday night. La Maquina looked to have gotten off to a great start, when an incredible free kick from Chaco Gimenez gave the team an early 1-0 lead. Morelia would not fold, though. A goal from Rafael Marquez Lugo evened things up in the first half, before Elias Hernandez took over after the break. On a Morelia counter attack in the 55th minute, Hernandez forced a great save from Cruz Azul goalkeeper Jesus Corona. The defense was not able to clear the ball, and Hernandez chipped a perfectly placed shot right over Corona and into the net
Cruz Azul later evened things up, when Waldo Ponce headed one in off a corner kick, but Morelia were not done. It was Hernandez again, this time in stoppage time, knocking home an incredible strike to give Morelia the crucial road victory. The win pushes Monarcas a full three points ahead of Cruz Azul in the Group 3 standings, and gives them the leg up in the fight for the group’s second automatic Liguilla qualifying spot.
Tuzos Still Alive
After opening their eyes last week, the Pachuca offense fully emerged from hibernation on Saturday night in a 3-0 destruction of visiting Jaguares. The win was a perfect follow-up to last week’s 3-1 road victory over Morelia, and keeps Pachuca firmly in the playoff hunt.
After a mediocre first half performance, the Tuzos proceeded to blow the doors open when Herculez Gomez came on as a sub in the 63rd minute. Gomez went right to work, using his head to knock in a goal off a pass from Franco Arizala. A few minutes later Gomez struck again, this time with a brilliant free kick from distance to give Pachuca the 2-0 lead. Gomez, Arizala, and Pachua still weren’t done. In the 90th minute, a Jaguares giveaway turned into Pachuca’s third goal. Gomez sprung Arizala with a great pass, and the Colombian striker finished calmly to cap off the 3-0 rout. It was an incredible performance from both Gomez as well as Arizala, two strikers that have caught lots of heat this season for their lack of production. After scoring just five total goals in their first eleven games, Pachuca have now scored six in their last two. By virtue of the tight standings in Group 2, Pachuca still have a playoff shot if they can hold this scoring form. With four games left to play, they sit just three points behind the group leaders.
Elsewhere Around the League
Estudiantes Tecos and Queretaro played to a scoreless draw on Friday night; San Luis and Necaxa also went scoreless on Saturday; and an amazing stoppage-time strike from distance by American Edgar Castillo earned Puebla a 1-1 draw at home against Toluca.
Estudiantes 0 - 0 Queretaro
Cruz Azul 2 - 3 Morelia
Monterrey 1 - 1 Santos
Pachuca 3 - 0 Jaguares
San Luis 0 - 0 Necaxa
Atlante 3 - 1 Atlas
Puebla 1 - 1 Toluca
Pumas 2 - 0 Tigres
Chivas 3 - 0 America