Thanks to a Puebla win over Chivas, Round 9 brings a brand new team to the top of the Mexican Primera league standings. Moving into first place this weekend was Jaguares de Chiapas, who scored an eyebrow-raising five goals against a reeling Club America. In other notable matches, Pumas and Cruz Azul both turned in impressive performances, positioning themselves as legitimate title contenders in the process. Here we take a look back at these stories and more from Round 9 of the Apertura 2011 season.
Welcome to the Jungle
The jungle battle between the eagle and the jaguar that took place this weekend in Chiapas proved to be no contest. Jaguares, wearing special-edition green jerseys symbolizing the fauna and flora of the local Chiapas environment, pounced on the Aguilas early in the match and never let go. Edgar Andrade put the home team up just minutes into the match, scoring on a follow-up of a Jorge Rodriguez miss. Down a goal, America turned on the pressure at the other end, finally scoring the equalizer in the 25th minute with Christian Benitez cleaning up a loose ball in front of the Jaguares net. That’s as close as America would get, though. Christian Valdez scored for Jaguares minutes later, and Franco Arizala pushed the lead to 3-1 just before the halftime break.
Unbelievably, the scoring was just getting started. Four more goals came in the second half, including two from America’s Daniel Montenegro and a second from Andrade. The America offense contributed three goals, but the team's play on the defensive end was a complete disaster. Looking lost for most of the match, the America backline never quite woke up. In the 87th minute Jackson Martinez found the back of the net for Jaguares, pushing the final margin to 5-3 -- and likely sticking a fork in America's Apertura season in the process. The win positioned Jaguares as the top team in the Primera standings (tied with Cruz Azul and Chivas on points, but ahead on goal differential). Incredibly, a team most predicted would be battling for relegation has suddenly turned itself into the class of the league.
Happy trails Carlos Reinoso. Shortly after the debacle against Jaguares on Saturday, the Club America manager announced his resignation. The news certainly wasn’t unexpected. America achieved just one win over their last eight matches, and fell all the way to 16th place in the league table following the Round 9 results. The match against Jaguares only further highlighted the team's serious defensive shortcomings, a problem Reinoso was never able to fix. New manager Alfredo Tena was announced on Monday, and quickly assured fans that "the season is not lost." Maybe not. But stuck near the bottom of the standings, and backed-up by the league’s worst defense, any recovery efforts won’t come easy.
Reinoso wasn't the only coaching casualty this weekend. Atlas manager Ruben Omar Romano announced his resignation following his team's 4-2 loss to Pachuca. It was the sixth loss of the season for Atlas, who sit in dead last place with only five points. New manager Juan Carlos Chavez has been gifted the monumental task of digging out of this boundless abyss.
Also moving on this weekend was Tijuana manager Joaquin del Olmo, who was fired by the club on Sunday night following a 0-2 home loss to Estudiantes Tecos. Just ahead of Atlas at the bottom of the standings, the Xolos have had a rough start to their new life in the Primera. Despite being a newly-promoted team, the club had extremely high hopes for success this season, and unfortunately del Olmo was continually coming up short.
Chivas returned to their old stomping grounds at Estadio Jalisco Saturday night, but things didn’t quite go according to plan. What started out as a celebration ended up as an embarrassing and ugly 1-4 loss to Puebla.
Despite going down a goal following an early penalty kick, Puebla did not back down. A golazo from Lucas Antonio Silva just before halftime brought things level, and Puebla took the lead soon after the break. It was DaMarcus Beasley who facilitated what ended up being the winning goal. Beasley’s fantastic run ended with him being brought down by Jonny Magallon just in front of the goal. Magallon saw red and Luis Garcia converted the penalty for the 2-1 lead. The speed of Beasley, Silva, and Duvier Riascos caused problems for the Chivas backline all night. Puebla already had the victory locked up late in the match, but a 89th minute goal from Silva followed by a stoppage-time blast from Alan Zamora provided the final 4-1 margin. The road win serves as another huge confidence boost for Puebla, who have now scored seven goals in their last two games. If they can keep the offense on track, Puebla has a great chance at still being a team in the discussion come playoff time.
Pumas, Azul Reassert Supremacy
While Club America fell to pieces in Chiapas, Mexico City’s other two clubs took big steps forward this weekend. After a disastrous run of league play, Pumas finally turned things around at home against Toluca on Sunday. Building on last week’s CONCACAF Champions League win over Toronto, Pumas kept the scoring valve open with the 4-1 result against the Red Devils. After conceding an early goal, Pumas stormed back behind another great performance from Martin Bravo. The Pumas striker assisted on the equalizer, before converting a penalty that turned out to be the winning goal.
Meanwhile, Cruz Azul turned in an equally impressive display on the road in Monterrey. Taking on a strong Rayados side, Cruz Azul jumped out to an early lead courtesy of a Cesar Villaluz goal four minutes into the match. Monterrey equalized, but in the second half it was Edixon Perea converting with his head to give la Maquina the victory. It was a big night from Perea, who stepped into the starting striker role in place of the injured Emanuel Villa and did not disappoint.
The wins from Cruz Azul and Pumas position the two clubs comfortably in the top five of the league standings. After relatively slow starts it looks like Cruz Azul and Pumas may be hitting their stride at just the right time. The title race remains wide open as we head into the second half of the season, and absolutely no one will be counting out either team.
Round 9 Scoreboard
Monterrey 1 - 2 Cruz Azul
Jaguares 5 - 3 Club America
Chivas 1 - 4 Puebla
Pachuca 4 - 2 Atlas
San Luis 0 - 1 Santos
Atlante 1 - 0 Tigres
Pumas 4 - 1 Toluca
Tijuana 0 - 2 Estudiantes
Morelia 4 - 2 Queretaro