Marco Fabian has Chivas flying high again. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Here is a quick look back at the biggest midweek stories from Round 14 of the Mexican Primera Clausura 2011 season.
Goats on Fire
What letdown? Coming less than 72 hours after their emotional Clasico victory, Chivas showed a renewed sense of focus on Wednesday night with an impressive 2-1 road victory over Toluca. On a wet night at Estadio Nemesio Diez, with rain pouring down at kickoff, Chivas exerted pressure on Toluca right from the opening whistle. Picking up where he left off in Sunday’s Clasico, Marco Fabian opened the scoring for the visitors with a blast through the hands on Toluca goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera in just the 12th minute. Fabian was making his first appearance in the starting lineup since February 13th, something nearly all Chivas fans thought was long overdue. After taking the early lead, Chivas would give one back when a shot from Emmanuel Cerda was misplayed by Hector Reynoso into his own net. The two teams remained even until the second half, when an absolute rocket of a goal from Xavi Baez broke the deadlock. With Toluca throwing everybody forward in the closing minutes, Chivas managed to hang on, due in large part to the performance of Luis Michel. The Chivas goalkeeper showed why many consider him Mexico’s best with a remarkable effort, turning away a number of Toluca shots from close range. The win moves Chivas into the fourth spot in the overall league table, and brings them close to locking up a spot in the Liguilla. After a rough start to the season, Chivas have now won four straight and have not lost a game since February. What was once a struggling offense has also now scored nine goals in the team’s last four outings. While three tough matches remain to close the season, there is no reason to doubt what is now the hottest club in the Mexican Primera.
Monterrey in Trouble?
It’s a question that certainly has to be asked of the Rayados following Wednesday night’s 3-0 loss against Cruz Azul. While it seems crazy that the defending champions could miss out on the playoffs, it still remains a possibility. Wednesday night’s result certainly didn’t help quell any of these growing concerns. Led by Chaco Gimenez, Cruz Azul rolled to the easy victory, earning a bit of revenge for their elimination from the CONCACAF Champions League last week at the hand of the Rayados. With a pair of powerful strikes from the top of the box – one in each half, the two goals almost exact mirrors of each other – Gimenez gave Cruz Azul a 2-0 lead. A header from Emanuel Villa off a corner kick would provide the final margin.
The loss, especially by such a decisive scoreline, is a huge blow to Monterrey. The Rayados now have an immensely difficult few weeks to end the season. Monterrey must face Morelia on Saturday, before the first leg of the CCL final against Real Salt Lake next Wednesday. The schedule will be jam-packed over these final two and a half weeks to end the season, and Monterrey still don’t know how much they will get from Humberto Suazo. Luckily, it appears that third place in Group 1 should be enough to guarantee a playoff spot. They’re in position to qualify as of now, but without some results over these final weeks, Monterrey may just end up on the outside looking in.
The Stampede Rolls On
Atlante are the best team in Group 2. Period. The top spot is now theirs alone, no additional qualifiers regarding goal differential or games played necessary. To get there, the Potros trampled Queretaro on Wednesday night, jumping out to an early 3-0 lead within the game’s first 30 minutes. The effort was led as usual by diminutive star Christian "Hobbit" Bermudez, who assisted on the first Atlante goal before scoring one himself. The eventual 4-1 road win moves Atlante three points clear of Club America in Group 2, and brings the Potros ever so close to Liguilla qualification. If Atlante, as expected, can beat Necaxa at home this weekend, the team will be in great shape to make their first trip to the playoffs since the Apertura 2008 season.
Santos Stay Alive
Just three weeks ago Santos looked dead in the water, marooned in last place of Group 1 and in the midst of an embarrassing five game losing streak. Suddenly things are looking up again in Torreon. In their last three matches Santos have notched two wins, one draw, and outscored their opponents by a combined 8-1 margin. On Wednesday night the latest victims were Puebla, who were completely outclassed to the tune of a 4-0 result. The Santos offensive explosion was led by Daniel Luduena, who scored twice in the first half to give his team what proved to be an insurmountable lead. Christian Benitez also returned after a two game absence and made his presence immediately felt. Coming on as a substitute, Benitez added a third goal for Santos in the second half, amazingly his first league goal since January. With everything suddenly coming together, it would be foolish to count out this Santos team. They definitely have the talent to make a final push, and with Monterrey stumbling ahead of them, there may still be an at-large Liguilla berth up for grabs. Santos has a tough match against Chivas this weekend, but close the season with very winnable games against San Luis and Estudiantes Tecos. Undoubtedly, it will be a fight all the way to the finish.
Round 14 Scoreboard
Morelia 2 - 1 Jaguares
Santos 4 - 0 Puebla
Toluca 1 - 2 Chivas
Necaxa 2 - 2 Estudiantes
Queretaro 1 - 4 Atlante
Cruz Azul 3 - 0 Monterrey
Tigres 4 - 2 Pachuca
Atlas 0 - 0 Pumas