Club America extended their dominance over Chivas, in Liguillas, with a 2-1 victory in the second leg of the quarterfinals. This is the 9th time in 11 instances where Club America has managed to advance past Chivas to the next stage. This victory has put them in their 31st semifinal—a Liga MX record.
They move on, having been able to overcome a shaky start and early deficit, after Orbelin Pineda put Chivas ahead when he placed home a strike from out of the box in the 9th minute. Chivas were not able to take advantage of their early lead, though.
Meanwhile, America settled into their game as time progressed. In the 27th minute, Osvaldo Martinez netted a penalty kick after a Jesus Sanchez' foul on Darwin Quintero, and Oribe Peralta put home the game-winner on a perfectly executed counterattack in the 67th minute. Chivas were not able to decipher America's defensive stance; their unbeaten-streak that started after a regular season loss to Club America ended at the hands of their rivals.
Here are my 3 takeaways from the match:
1) Midfield Disappearing Act
The Chivas midfield play we had seen the final seven weeks of the season seemed to have disappeared once the Liguilla started. Through both legs, the likes of Gulit Peña and Isaac Brizuela vanished for large parts of both games. Gulit Peña was imprecise with his passing and unable to hold possession of the ball. His less than stellar play in the Liguilla culminated in the 32nd minute of the second leg when he missed a penalty kick that would have put Chivas ahead. Isaac Brizuela went large parts of both legs basically unheard of, and when he did have the ball, Club America's defensive stance was able to stifle his creativity. What, at one point in the season, was one of the most creative and aggressive midfield, now seemed unimaginative and predictable through both legs of the Liguilla.
2) Tactically Outcoached
Although Matias Almeyda missed the second leg, Club America was tactically the better team through both legs. In the first match, their high pressure stifled Chivas' attack, and even when Chivas had the numerical man advantage, America's defensive poise did not allow Chivas to take advantage.
The second leg was a tale of two halves. In the first half, when Chivas looked their most dangerous and had gone ahead early, they decided to sit back and let America attack. This tactical decision proved costly as America piled on the pressure for much of the half, and Chivas eventually conceded a goal after a foul in the box.
In the second half, although America needed another goal, they did not panic. They sat back and waited for their rival to bring the game to them. This paid off when Oribe Peralta put away the game-winner after a perfectly timed counter and assist from Darwin Quintero. If Almeyda had been on the sidelines, would Chivas have taken such a defensive stance after going up a goal, or would Almeyda have made better adjustments? These are questions that will remain unanswered.
3) Striker Needed
Chivas are in dire need of a true striker to complement their midfield. Omar Bravo, considered a team legend, is unfortunately no longer the answer. It is time for Chivas and him to part ways. Angel Zaldivar was solid for most of the season. He did the job that was asked of him when he was on the pitch, but he netted only 1 goal which was the same total as Bravo.
Although Chivas reached the Liguilla with both players, the lack of a true forward haunted the team once in the quarterfinals. Bravo, who had to start the second leg, was basically nonexistent, and it was almost as if the team was down a man because there was no one in the final third of the pitch who could put away opportunities. The main objective for Almeyda this off-season, although a difficult one considering the drought of Mexican forwards, will be to bring in a young striker that will add the extra punch the team needs for next season.