The Mexican Primera's Apertura 2011 regular season has come to a close. With an almost two week gap until the Liguilla playoffs kick off, FMF State of Mind has taken the time to recap the best moments from the past season. Today in Part 1 we reveal the first half of the Top 10, looking at the Apertura moments ranked 6-10.
10. Oribe Peralta’s Week 1 Hat-Trick vs. Pachuca
When the 2011 Apertura kicked off in July, several lingering question followed Santos Laguna into the new season. The biggest uncertainty was in regards to scoring, specifically who would fill the void left by the departed Christian Benitez? With 20 goals for Santos over the previous two seasons, Bentiez's move to Club America was far from inconsequential. Despite these serious scoring concerns, it didn't take long for one of the remaining Santos player to put all lingering questions to bed. Just 11 minutes into the season, Oribe Peralta converted a header against Pachuca to open the team’s Apertura scoring account. He quickly followed that goal up with two others, leading Santos to an impressive 4-1 win in the opener. Peralta would go on to be a primary figure for the Santos attack over the next few months, finishing the season with 10 goals (making him the leading scorer on his team, and tying him for second in the entire league). With Peralta’s help, Santos finished the Apertura as the highest-scoring team in the league. The team’s 29 goals were six more than last season, and impressively were more than Santos scored in any of the previous three seasons.
9. Tijuana Wins First Primera Match at Home
Club Tijuana began their first ever season in the Mexican Primera with incredibly high expectations. In retrospect, the predictions of immediate success and a Liguilla appearance proved to be far off the mark, but Xolos fans still had a few moments to celebrate. The high point of their season probably occurred in Round 13, when Tijuana achieved that long-awaited first victory at home. As the final whistle sounded in the team’s exciting 3-2 win over Pachuca, the rabid home supporters at Estadio Caliente exploded into a state of delirium. The frenzied celebration was fitting for a team that relied so heavily on a great home-field advantage while in the Liga Ascenso. The win also highlighted a much-improved second half of the season for Tijuana. After just one win in the first twelve games, the Xolos won two of their last five. More importantly, Tijuana did not drop a game since September, going the final eight rounds of season without a loss. While expectations will no doubt be tempered next season, Tijuana has shown they are ready to take the next step towards regularly competing in the Primera.
8. Ivan Alonso Leads Toluca to Wild 4-3 Win Over Puebla
Neither team would end up making the Liguilla, but on this particular Sunday afternoon in October, Toluca and Puebla put together one of the most entertaining matches of the season. The Round 14 showdown between the two teams featured seven goals scored, with Toluca emerging in the end by a final 4-3 scoreline. One big reason for the win was the impressive individual play of striker Ivan Alonso. The hat-trick he scored against Puebla was just one of several great performances in his incredibly productive debut season in the Mexican Primera. The Uruguayan striker not only led Toluca in scoring (also accounting for an astounding 58% of the team’s goals), but Alonso’s eleven goals were good enough to make him the top scorer in the league. Not bad for his first ever season in Mexico. Unfortunately, most of his teammates had a season to forget, and Alonso was the lone bright spot in an otherwise disappointing year for the Red Devils.
7. Tigres Maul Pachuca 5-0
Already undefeated and riding high two months into the season, Tigres took another huge step forward with a 5-0 demolishing of Pachuca in Round 8. The game also carried extra significance for the Tigres home fans, as it was the first match played at Estadio Universitario following the horrific attacks at a Monterrey casino on August 25th. With the team’s best attacking display of the tournament –- including a hat-trick from Hector Mancilla –- Tigres steamrolled the Tuzos by a five goal margin. The win moved Tigres just one point behind Chivas at the top of the Round 8 standings. Tigres would go on to lose to Atlante the next week – and not win again for almost a month – but the victory over Pachuca would continue to stand as a seminal moment. Tigres would ultimately rebound towards the end of the year, ending the season in the top three and positioning themselves as one of a handful of favorites for the league title.
6. Round 13 Insanity Flips Standings on Head
There was no better advertisement for the unpredictability of Mexican Primera football than the results in Round 13. Just when we thought we were getting a handle on things, the league’s bottom five teams coming into the round -- Atlas, Tijuana, America, Puebla, and Morelia -- all came away with victories. It was an amazing collective effort by the league’s cellar dwellers, who all turned in shockingly impressive performances. Most improbable was the play of the bottom three teams, Atlas, Tijuana, and America. With just four wins total between them through 12 rounds, the three worst teams in the league won their Round 13 matches by a 10-3 margin. While a great reminder of the futility of betting on Mexican football, the results of this round also symbolized what was an incredibly balanced Apertura season. The standings remained razor-close all season long, and a large number of teams were left still fighting for Liguilla spots in the final weekend. Things at the top were also fluid, as a one month stretch from September 25th to October 25th saw five rounds and five different teams atop the league standings. In the end, the Round 13 madness was just one great chapter in a season-long narrative of uncertainty, unpredictability, and competitive balance.
Continue on to Part 2, where we unveil the Top 5 Moments of the Apertura 2011 Season.