Here are your five conclusions from the twelfth week of play in the 2018 Liga MX Apertura.
Santos Laguna keeping pace
Santos Laguna recorded their third win in four games, as they defeated Atlas 3-1 on Friday. The Guerreros keep collecting points, and they currently find themselves just two points away from league leaders Cruz Azul.
Santos may well find themselves as one of the hottest teams in all of Mexico, but rarely do they get the attention they deserve. Despite the drama of losing their manager early in the season for an alleged physical altercation with a player, they have been steadily rising up the table. Part of this has to do with the team’s ability to not change the tactical demands of their players too radically. In terms of the overall structure of the team, Salvador Reyes has changed very little of that of his predecessor Robert Siboldi, who changed very little from the guy before him, Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre. In fact, you can argue that Santos have been one of the few teams in Liga MX to establish a fixed style of play across the last few seasons.
There will, no doubt, be tough tests ahead, and when it comes to Liga MX, the playoffs can always be purely coincidental. But this is a team that already knows what it takes to win the Liga MX title, and in that regard, it would be foolish to not treat this team as a genuine candidate for the title.
Cruz Azul edge Monterrey at the Estadio Azteca
Cruz Azul vs. Monterrey wasn’t the spectacle that many expected. At the end, the Cementeros earned a 2-1 win in a game that had an early red card and added injury woes to the Rayados.
Monterrey can’t catch a break at the moment, and after scoring the breakthrough early in the game, Cesar Montes had to be taken off for what appeared to be another muscle injury, adding himself to the the long list of absences Monterrey have been having to deal with during the last few weeks. To make matters worse, Rogelio Funes Mori got a red card in the 24th minute, the man coach Diego Alonso needs most to gain minutes after missing a large portion of the first half the season.
Cruz Azul, on the other hand, haven’t been brilliant during the last few weeks, but they haven’d had to be. With 26 points, they are virtually already in the Liguilla, given that 26 points has always been enough to seal a place in the postseason. Cruz Azul still have remaining games against Club América and Pumas UNAM, but you’d be hard pressed finding a team more capable of going all the way come late November.
Tigres pay the price against Club América
At least in league play, Tigres’s record over Club América has recently been overwhelming in favor of the regiomontanos. Las Águilas have found themselves dominated against Tigres in recent tournaments, which makes their victory at the Estadio Universitario all that surprising.
The deciding factor in this game was Tigres’s set-piece defending. The bottom line is it was poor. All three of Club América’s goals came from corner kicks, and the Felinos’s body language in each one of the goals said it all. Furthermore, Tigres’s resilience left plenty to be desired after going down 2-1, especially coming from a team full of veterans.
12 weeks into the season, Tigres still seem to be a team waiting to get up to speed, and that can be both worrying or not a big deal, depending on who you talk to. Tigres do have a tendency to turn it up late in the season, but there has also been some worrying signs, especially on the defensive side of the ball. At the end, it’s up to you to decide how far this Tigres team can go.
Pumas UNAM break Guadalajara curse
As they say, curses are meant to be broken. On Saturday, Pumas UNAM earned their very first victory over Chivas in Guadalajara in more than 36 years. It wasn’t pretty, but as has been the case with Pumas this season, it never is.
The hosts were largely the better team, but when the pressure dropped in the second half, Martin Rodriguez put in a perfect cross for Felipe Mora to score the eventual winner. Mora’s goal never seemed inevitable, but there is something about Pumas that makes them find ways to win games, even when their play is less than stellar.
The defeat was a big blow for Chivas, who now find themselves back down to 12th in the league standings. There is five games remaining for Chivas, and technically, they will need to win at least three of them to have any chance of making the Liguilla playoffs.
Jonathan Espericueta sighting in Puebla derby
Lobos BUAP and Puebla were responsible for closing out Week 12 of Liga MX, as both teams played out to a 2-2 draw in the Clásico Poblano. The real news, however, is that Jonathan Espericueta scored his first ever Liga MX goal. It was years in the making, but the former Mexico national team prodigy smashed the ball into the back of the net with a beautiful left-footed strike to score Puebla’s first equalizer.
At 24-years-old, it’s probably a little too late for him to become that Inieista-like player he looked like he was headed to be just a few years ago. That said, you get the feeling that there is still so much he can offer, and the hope is this is the start of many more noteworthy performances to come from the Puebla midfielder.