Clasicos are by nature intense games; Clasicos in the Liguilla, that ferocity increases tenfold. Thursday evening's game at Estadio Chivas was no different. The game ended in a 0-0 draw but saw 94 minutes of intensity and aggressiveness from the onset.
The pace and fierceness from both sides did have its downfall as it led to the unfortunate influence of the referee who had a very poor showing. Inadequate decision making and questionable calls resulted in both Club America and Chivas each finishing the game with 10 men. America's captain, Ruben Sambueza, was given his second yellow at the 60th minute in a call which seemed like a make-up call for an earlier foul where a yellow was not given. Angel Zaldivar was given a direct red at the 82nd minute for a challenge on Paul Aguilar which was far less dangerous than it initially looked and both will be missing Sunday's game at Azteca.
In a half that went back and forth, Club America was the stronger side for majority of the first part. Although not necessarily controlling the game with possession, Ignacio Ambriz' side applied very high pressure that made it difficult for Chivas to come out of their own half. A combination of America's high pressure and what could be categorized as playoff jitters made Chivas extremely imprecise, and the fluid passing game we saw over the past seven weeks was virtually nonexistent. Club America was able to limit Chivas' attack and cut off many passes which led to counterattacks, but they were not able to capitalize as Rodolfo Cota had another outstanding showing.
Chivas' nervousness seemed to subside in the second half, and they settled back into the team we had seen over the past few weeks. Once America went down to 10 men in the 60th minute, Chivas really packed on the pressure but never really seemed to trouble Hugo Gonzalez. Their clearest opportunity came off of a set piece from Carlos Cisneros in the 67th minute—Angel Zaldivar met the cross in the center of the box and headed it wide right of the Goal.
Late in the half, William Da Silva took down Jesus "Chapo" Sanchez in the right side of the box in what looked like a clear penalty that was missed by the referee.
Once both teams went down to 10 men, there was more of the back and forth of the first half, but neither side was able to trouble the two goalkeepers.
The draw isn't a bad result for Chivas, but it is not great either. They will need to go into Estadio Azteca and look to take advantage of the away goal rule, and this task will be much more difficult with Zaldivar being out on Sunday. Almeyda will likely start Omar Bravo in his place, but the Chivas star, has not been able to get over his scoring drought and has only netted one goal all season. The team's passing must also be much more consistent on Sunday, and they must take advantage of all the opportunities in the final third of the pitch, if they are to put away their rivals.
America, on the other hand, goes into Sunday's game at home as the favorite but will also be without their emotional leader and captain, Ruben Sambueza. This will be a big gap to fill in the midfield, and it seems like this loss has a larger impact on the team than the loss of Zaldivar for Chivas. America will also need to stay disciplined and not let the emotions of the game get to them in order to avoid costly decisions.
Although the outcome was not what either club would have wanted, nor how several pundits had predicted the game would end, it was very typical of what the Clasico Nacional is like. If the first leg was any indication of what the second leg will be like, we will likely be in for a classic finish on Sunday night.