Here your five conclusions from the twelfth week of play in the Liga MX Clausura.
Veracruz shock Cruz Azul
It’s hard to brand it a surprise anymore. Friday’s 3-1 defeat to Veracruz means Cruz Azul’s Liguilla aspirations are drawing to another disappointing end. By virtue of this defeat, the Cementeros are six points off a Liguilla place with 18 points to go. In itself, it doesn’t sound impossible, but Cruz Azul’s remarkable consistency of letting their fans down suggests it isn’t going to happen.
What was surprising about this defeat is that the result was completely deserved. Previously, Cruz Azul could lament dropping points but doing it playing an admirable brand of football. Here, they showed zero grit against one of the worst teams in the league. It was arguably the most underwhelming Cruz Azul performance under Paco Jemez.
Jesus Gallardo shines in Pumas win
For Pumas, defeat to rivals Club America two weeks ago was a genuine sign that the team was in trouble. Whenever a team loses a Clasico, specially at home, reaction will inevitably be strong. Fast forward to Saturday and Pumas had a gratifying response, beating Chiapas 3-0 in a tough venue like the Estadio Victor Manuel Reyna. This wasn't an exceptional showing by any means, but they secured the three points thanks to superb performance from 22-year-old Jesus Gallardo. Gallardo broke Chiapas’ resistance in the 45th minute through a brilliant long-range strike before handing out an assist to Matias Britos and grabbing a second in the 87th minute.
Gallardo was undoubtedly the best player on the field. He isn’t as flashy as a Tecatito or as auspicious in space as an Hirving Lozano, but there is something intriguing about the Pumas winger. It is no wonder Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio has not hesitated in giving the youngster a national team call up.
Aviles Hurtado gets amazing goal
Xolos de Tijuana and Atlas played out to a thrilling 3-3 draw at the Estadio Jalisco. The final result, though, scarcely matters. If you haven’t seen Aviles Hurtado’s goal, then you should really take time out of your day to watch it. It was special.
Champions Tigres fall at home once again
Such is the way of things that after 11 games played, champions Tigres are 13th in the league table and have one of the worst home records of the season. The Estadio Universitario may hold the status as one of the most raucous venus in all of Mexico, but “El Volcan” has carried very little weight this season. On Saturday against Leon, Tigres recorded their fourth game without a victory at home, losing by the minimum against “La Fiera”. The champions now look farther than ever from defending their title, which for a team that is designed to win titles should be seen as a complete failure.
That said, Tigres’ most realistic title target might be the CONCACAF Champions League. The regiomontanos go into their semifinal second leg against the Vancouver Whitecaps with a 2-0 advantage, as they search for their first international title in club history.
Club America find a way to stop Monterrey
Tijuana had been the only team to take all three points off Monterrey since September 24 of last year, but Saturday’s defeat means Club America can be credited with being the second team to do so. Las Aguilas held on to a 1-0 win over the Rayados at the Estadio Azteca to move firmly into a Liguilla position. It was a fine result from the perspective of Club America, who were not at their best and have been struggling with a major injury crisis.
Monterrey, who arrived to the Estadio Azteca with four wins in their last five matches, rarely looked like much of a threat on the attack. It became evident in the 64th minute that coach Antonio “Turco” Mohamed’s cautious gameplan was perhaps the wrong one when Oribe Peralta fired the hosts into the lead. The rest of the second half took a different dynamic, with Monterrey surging forward in search of the equalizer. At the end, however, they carried very little danger in transition and settled for pointless long-range shots as Las Aguilas were able to hold on without a problem.
The win now makes it 15 games unbeaten for coach Ricardo La Volpe at the Estadio Azteca, and Club America are starting to become a force again in their own stadium. Injury crisis and all, with four home games remaining for Las Aguilas this season, you have to like their chances of making the Liguilla.