Round 12 action in Mexico played out like an advertisement for the league’s inherent unpredictability. The weekend’s results also made you wonder how anyone makes money gambling on the Mexican Primera. Round 12 saw the three bottom teams in the league standings (Jaguares, Pachuca, and Santos Laguna) all win in convincing fashion. Not only that, but their three opponents just happened to be the top three teams in the league. Santos (a team with no wins in its previous five matches) beat Cruz Azul; Pachuca (also no wins in its previous five matches) beat Morelia; and most amazingly Jaguares (just one win in its last ten matches) beat undefeated Pumas UNAM. Welcome to football in the Mexican Primera. Let's take a look back at these surprising results as well as other featured games from Round 12 of the Clausura 2011 season.
Undefeated No More
We all figured the Pumas undefeated streak would come to an end at some point this season. The big surprise was that Jaguares were the ones to end it. With just two total wins on the year, and seven losses in their last nine league games, no one figured Jaguares had much of a chance against the league’s best team. But on a hot Saturday evening in Chiapas, with temperatures in the high 90s, Jaguares managed to shock everyone. Behind two goals from striker Antonio Salazar and another from Edgar Andrade, Jaguares jumped out to an early 3-0 lead which they would never relinquish. Pumas would get one back late in the match off a Jaguares defensive error, but other than that it was all about the home team.
Jaguares deserve all the credit in the world for their effort on Saturday. Stretched thin by injuries as well as the schedule congestion due to participation in Copa Libertadores, Jaguares could have easily thrown in the towel on the Clausura season. Instead, after an embarrassing 5-1 loss to Atlante prior to the international break, Jaguares returned with a renewed focus and proceeded to destroy the league’s best team. While they remain at the bottom of the league table, Jaguares fans can certainly be proud of their club. On the other side, Pumas now have to regroup quickly. A match against Tigres, the league’s second-best team, awaits next weekend.
Coming into this weekend Pachuca had managed just two wins this season, and had lost five of their last eight. At the international break only one team -- Jaguares -- were below them in the league standings. With that in mind, it’s hard to believe that with Sunday afternoon’s win over Morelia, the Tuzos are actually back in playoff contention.
Pachuca were helped out against Morelia by a dominant performance from goalkeeper Rodolfo Cota. Finishing the season for Pachuca in place of the injured Miguel Calero, Cota had an incredible outing in just his second start of the year. Cota turned away numerous Morelia chances, including a first-half penalty shot from Adrian Aldrete. At the other end of the field the Pachuca offense was finally able to gain some traction, with Edgar Benitez and Franco Arizala both scoring to give Pachuca a 2-0 halftime lead.
Pachuca then held on in the second half. Morelia finally broke through in the 84th minute when a shot from Aldrete bounced off the crossbar and hit the goal line. The referee ruled it a goal, although replays appeared to show that the ball did not entirely cross the line. The controversy was rendered moot, though, when Braulio Luna iced the game in stoppage time with a beautifully placed lob over Morelia keeper Frederico Vilar. Not only was it Pachuca’s first win in six weeks, but incredibly it was also the first time the team had scored a goal since February 19th. After all of their collective struggles this season, Sunday’s road win brings Pachuca to within three points of second place of Group 2. Yes indeed, a playoff spot is somehow still well within reach.
Cocca Gets a Win
After four straight losses since taking over from Ruben Omar Romano, Santos manager Diego Cocca finally got his first win on Saturday night against Cruz Azul. Santos got off to a perfect start on Saturday, scoring just under one minute into the game. A Santos corner was headed by Felipe Baloy towards Carlos Darwin Quintero, who finished with a header of his own for the immediate lead. Later in the first half, a deflected shot fell to the feet of Jorge Ivan Estrada, who converted for the 2-0 Santos advantage.
In the second half, Quintero drew a penalty in the box, and what had been an exciting and open match suddenly took an ugly turn. Quintero was pushed by Chaco Gimenez and responded with a head-butt. The referee immediately sent off Quintero with a straight red card. In interviews later, Quintero explained that Cruz Azul defender Rogelio Chavez had also berated him with racial slurs prior to his outburst. Quintero sincerely apologized to Santos fans for his actions, but reasserted his disgust and hurt at the words of Chavez. Unfortunately, what should have been a great night for Quintero and Santos, was slightly tarnished by this incident. Quintero will also be forced to miss the next match due to his red card suspension, just when the team finally looked to be turning a corner.
Red Devils Match Rayados
Monterrey decided not to use Humberto Suazo in Sunday’s match against Toluca, instead choosing to rest him ahead of Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League semifinal. Aldo de Nigris proved to be just as formidable a scoring option, giving Monterrey an early lead just minutes into the match. De Nigris capitalized on an error by Toluca goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera to score his fourth goal of the season. It was a nice follow up to a solid performance last week with the national team, in which de Nigris scored against Venezuela.
Toluca would eventually find the equalizer in the second half. On a long pass forward, Jamie Ayovi knocked Monterrey defender Dulio Davino off the ball, collected the pass, and finished past Jonathan Orozco. The 1-1 scoreline stood, and in the end a draw was actually not a bad result for either team. Monterrey earns a point on the road without Suazo, and stays in second place of Group 1. Toluca gets a point against one of the league’s best teams, something that they can use to build positive momentum going forward into the final month of the regular season.
Tigres Too Much for Atlante
In a matchup of the leading teams from Group 1 and Group 2, Tigres proved too much for visiting Atlante, earning the 2-0 win at Estadio Universitario. From the opening whistle, Tigres dominated possession and were able to control the game going forward. Tigres produced several great scoring chances in the first half but were never able to finish.
Atlante was dealt a tough blow just seconds into the second period, when midfielder Alex Diego was handed a straight red card. The decision was an incredibly harsh one, as Diego’s high kick did not appear to have malicious intentions. Already struggling to produce on the attacking end, Atlante had limited hope for a result with the added burden of a man disadvantage.
Just minutes later Tigres finally got on the board. A header from Jesus Molina off a corner kick proved to be the game’s winning score. Francisco Acuna would go on to add a second goal for Tigres late in the match for the final 2-0 margin. Even without the Atlante red card, Tigres proved to be the better team in this matchup. The win moves them to 23 points on the season, good for first place in Group 1 as well as second place behind Pumas (who they face next weekend) in the overall league table.
Chivas Take Out Necaxa
A matchup between Necaxa and Chivas doesn’t exactly suggest an entertaining game, at least on paper. Necaxa did not score a goal in the entire month of March, and Chivas had yet to win on the road this season. Preconceived notions proved to be off base, though, when Friday night’s match in Aguascalientes actually turned out to be a surprisingly entertaining affair.
Chivas managed to get on the board immediately with a goal from Xavi Baez just minutes into the match. Necaxa struck back quickly, though, with a header from Sergio Blanco. From there, the teams went back and forth. Just before halftime, Erick "Cubo" Torres nearly gave Chivas the lead, but his shot was headed off the line by Necaxa’s Paulo Chavez. In the second half, Marco Fabian ended up netting the game winner. His powerful free kick took a slight deflection off the head of Christian Suarez and found the back of the net. The 2-1 road win was a huge one for Chivas. It moves the team into the seventh overall spot in the league table, meaning that if the season ended today Chivas would be in the playoffs. It was also an important win because points will be at a premium over the final few weeks of the season. The remaining schedule for Chivas is brutal, with games against America, Toluca, Santos, Cruz Azul, and Monterrey still to come. If Chivas want to hang onto that Liguilla spot, it will take some serious work.
Elsewhere Around the League
In other action this weekend, a dominant performance by the America offense combined with a mediocre defensive outing resulted in a 5-4 win over Puebla at Estadio Azteca; Carlos Bueno scored twice to lead Queretaro to a 3-2 win over San Luis; and in Guadalajara, Atlas and Estudiantes Tecos played to a 1-1 draw.
Necaxa 1 - 2 Chivas
Jaguares 3 - 1 Pumas
Queretaro 3 - 2 San Luis
Tigres 2 - 0 Atlante
Santos 3 - 0 Cruz Azul
Atlas 1 - 1 Estudiantes
Toluca 1 - 1 Monterrey
Morelia 1 - 3 Pachuca
America 5 - 4 Puebla