Round 6 brought with it a change at the top of the Mexican league standings. Defending champions Pumas were unseated after three weeks at the top of the table, and Chivas used a key win over fellow-contenders Monterrey to move into the vacated top spot. Elsewhere in the league, violence outside of the stadium during the Santos-Morelia match forced the nation to witness the unfortunate intersection of drug violence and football. These and other events are recapped here in a look back at the biggest stories from Round 6 of the Clausura 2011 season.
Chucho Hat Dance
The last time Atlas visited the Estadio Azteca, almost exactly a year ago during the Apertura 2010 season, the team from Guadalajara earned a 1-1 road draw. During the first half of Sunday's match between Atlas and Club America, it looked like the visitors might once again claim a result. Just ten minutes into the game Atlas gained the upper hand, as Georgie Welcome knocked in a deflected ball for the early 1-0 lead. America settled in and controlled most of the possession for the rest of the half, but Atlas held strong. It wasn't until the 45th minute that America grabbed the equalizer, just on the brink of the halftime break. The goal came from Angel Reyna, who stepped outside of the box and fired a missile past Miguel Pinto into the right side of the net. The goal gave America a bit of momentum heading into the break, which they proceeded to build on in dramatic fashion during the second period.
Early in the second half Christian "Chucho" Benitez helped set up Vicente Sanchez for the America lead. From that point on, the match turned into the Chucho show. Benitez scored his first goal of the game in the 70th minute, off a great build up from Rosinei to Daniel Montenegro, and finally to the star Ecuadorian striker. In fact, much of the offensive success on the day was the result of the successful play through the middle from both Rosinei and Montenegro. It was Benitez, though, who finished the job. Eight minutes after his first score, Chucho struck again with a volley off a pass from substitute Juan Carlos Medina. Flavio Santos was able to grab one back for Atlas late in the match, but it was all for naught as Benitez earned his hat-trick in stoppage time. The third goal came as Chucho paused at the top of the box before firing a lightning-fast, ground-level shot past Pinto for the final 5-2 scoreline. The win was a welcome result for the Aguilas after a loss and two draws over the past three weeks. The scoring outburst also moves Benitez to the front of the league scoring race, with five goals on the season.
The Guns of Torreon
At the forty-minute mark of Saturday evening's match between Santos Laguna and Morelia football suddenly ceased to matter. As gunshots echoed across the stadium, players and fans both were suddenly running for cover. The moments to follow produced disturbing images of fans crouching in the narrow aisles between seats, and players huddled in the stadium tunnel. A frightful scene, but thankfully no fans were hurt and none of the bullets actually made it inside the stadium. The shots were the result of narco-related violence at a checkpoint close to Estadio Corona. What was most unfortunate was the ugliness of drug violence nearly breaking through the sacred walls of the Mexican football stadium.
Growing violence in Torreon is undoubtedly a serious issue, but Estadio Corona was -- and still is -- a secure venue (as are most all the stadiums in the country). Hopefully this will not dissuade fans, including the many families and young children who attend games, from going to matches in Torreon or any other city. In the end, the lifeblood of the league is the passion of the supporters. The sad truth is that such violence can happen anywhere (including the United States). Unfortunately on Saturday it occurred near a stadium during a high-profile Mexican Primera match, and at least temporarily drew the attention of the world. One can only hope that this event serves as a much-needed wake-up call to stem the violence nationwide.
Undefeated No More
On the strength of their defense, the defending champs were coasting along to an undefeated record over the first few weeks of the season. With the backline conceding just two goals in the first five matches of the Clausura, Pumas UNAM were riding high atop the league standings. On the road against Puebla this weekend, though, the team finally stumbled.
Pumas entered Estadio Cuauhtemoc without key defender Marco Palacios in the lineup. Serving a suspension for his red card last week, Pikolin instead spent the match in the stands signing autographs for fans. In his place was young defender Jose Antonio Garcia, who not only made his first start for Pumas on Sunday, but also his first ever appearance in a Primera Division match. At the start of the match against Puebla, it was actually the whole Pumas team that suddenly looked young. Thirteen minutes into the match Puebla grabbed a quick lead when a free kick snuck in past the other Pikolin, Pumas goalkeeper Alejandro Palacios. Just over ten minutes later Puebla struck again. A cross into the box from Aldo Polo found the head of a wide-open DaMarcus Beasley, and suddenly it was a 2-0 lead for the home team. When Pumas midfielder David Cabrera was shown his second yellow card later in the half, it looked to be a wrap for the defending champs. Credit Pumas, though, for battling back in the second half despite the man disadvantage. Just one minute into the second period Puebla knew they couldn’t rest easy, as Javier Cortes sent a shot screaming off the crossbar. Cortes would find the net later in the half, when his long free kick was completely misjudged by Puebla keeper Alexandro Alvarez. Pumas briefly had hope for a shorthanded result, but despite a few late chances they could never find the equalizer. Sunday’s loss moves Pumas off the top line in the standings, and the UNAM club must now quickly regroup before the big rivalry match against Cruz Azul next Sunday.
Chivas Rise to the Top
After Saturday night’s match between Chivas and Monterrey, the Rayados fans had a lot to gripe about. Star striker Humberto Suazo never took the field, a borderline penalty caused Monterrey to lose an early lead, and a suspect red card may have ultimately given Chivas the win. But in the end none of it matters. Chivas picked up a crucial win at home over Monterrey, and combined with the loss by Pumas, now occupy the overall top spot in the Primera standings.
After taking the early lead on Saturday, Monterrey proceeded to foul Alberto Medina on the edge of the box, leading to a penalty kick equalizer from Marco Fabian. The greater injustice in the eyes of Monterrey fans came in the second half when Darvin Chavez was shown an incredibly harsh red card for his foul of Omar Arellano, a decision which shifted the course of the match. Chavez's exit eventually opened the door for the Chivas winner, as Medina somehow beat Jonathan Orozco near post from the endline to give Chivas the final 2-1 margin. The win keeps Chivas undefeated and puts them alone atop the league standings, two points clear of both Pumas and Cruz Azul. Chivas also have the added bonus of carrying a game in hand (which will be played against Tijuana on September 2nd). There are still many tough matches to come, but Chivas couldn’t be in a better position to earn one of the coveted top seeds to the Liguilla at season’s end.
Goal of the Week
in a weekend full of impressive goals, there was one that stood out above the rest. Christian "Hobbit" Bermudez may be small in stature, but on Sunday he showed why he still stands out above the crowd. Hobbit's 46th minute golazo blast from distance caught the entire Toluca defense off guard, and gave Atlante a brief lead on the road. The thirty-yard blast was placed perfectly, just sneaking in between the crossbar and the outstretched hands of Alfredo Talavera. Unfortunately for the Potros it ended up being their only major highlight of the day. Atlante would go on to concede two goals and drop the match against the Red Devils by a score of 2-1.
Round 6 Scoreboard
Estudiantes 2 - 1 Pachuca
Cruz Azul 2 - 1 Tijuana
Queretaro 1 - 2 Jaguares
Chivas 2 - 1 Monterrey
Santos - Morelia
Tigres 1 - 0 San Luis
Puebla 2 - 1 Pumas
Toluca 2 - 1 Atlante
Club America 5 - 2 Atlas