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Veracruz brings Pumas back down to earth with stunning victory

Pumas fail to return to first place with a tough loss against relegation favorites Veracruz.

Pumas and Veracruz stand before tonight's match
Rafael Hernandez

Pumas underestimated a Veracruz team that pounced on their opportunity to come out with huge three points in a 2-1 win on Wednesday. A terrible early 30 minutes for Pumas gave Veracruz all the opportunities they needed and Diego Chavez scored twice for a 2-0 lead. Pumas came back with a goal, but even when they improved in intensity, they were never able to crack a Veracruz team that knew what they were playing for.

Ex Pumas coach Guillermo Vasquez, had a plan against his ex team and Veracruz could have scored more goals and were deserved winners. On the other hand, Pumas didn’t just waste their chance to get back to first place but they showed a lot of warning signs, especially with how little offense they generated when Pablo Barrera is off.

Pumas came into this game as the clear favorite. Undefeated, in first place, and at home, they faced the team currently in the bottom of the relegation table but that had played better than the results showed. It looked like a terribly deceiving game, and unfortunately for Pumas, they didn’t heed the warning signs.

Veracruz came out fighting and knowing their direct rivals (Queretaro, Lobos BUAP) had earned draws earlier in the week. The Tiburones Rojos came close with a shot from Daniel Villalba before Carlos Esquivel made a great play through the middle and sent the ball to the man of the match, Daniel Chavez, who scored the 1-0.

While this should have woken Pumas up, they still continued with their lethargic play and would pay dearly for it. Pumas would lose a ball in the middle of the park that gave Veracruz a counterattack, where Villalba combined with Chavez, who once again scored.

After Pumas went down 2-0, they started to heighten their level of intensity and finally gained control of the match. A good cross from Jose Carlos Van Rankin was met by David Cabrera to head in the 2-1. Pumas kept dominating the match for the rest of the first half but couldn’t create another good opportunity.

The second half had Pumas going on the attack, but Memo Vasquez had done a good job of settling his team. Sitting back and counterattacking, Veracruz looked the most dangerous team, while Pumas kept running out of ideas. Their main creator, Pablo Barrera, had an awful game, and thus, their were few chances for the strike partnership of Nico Castillo and Matias Alustiza.

Veracruz came close to scoring a couple of times, and although their chances were fewer, they were the better ones. Pumas came the closest when Matias Alustiza headed a ball that was cleared by Veracruz’s goalkeeper, Pedro Gallese. Alustiza got the rebound and passed the ball to Jesus Gallardo, who forced Gallese to another great save.

Pumas had the ball the majority of the game but Veracruz defended well and mostly forced them to continuously make crosses. In the end it looked like Pumas was frustrated with their defensive nature as well, as not getting many calls. Veracruz held on and Pumas’s undefeated streak was over.

Veracruz came out with the shock result of the season tonight. It’s a big win and could be a season changer for a team fighting for their lives every game. For Pumas, it might have the opposite effect. While a loss can be an important lesson for the team to not get overconfident, they were key warning signs tonight for the team. Their defense floundered at times, even-though defender Alejandro Arribas once again shined. Yet the biggest troubling sign is how much the team’s offensive decline happened with an off night from Pablo Barrera. It was clear from the early minutes that Barrera was having a terrible game, but he remained in the game up until the final minutes. Barrera is not only one of the more experienced players, but he has had severe injuries through his career and tonight might have shown that he might not be very efficient in busy week like this one. Physically, he looked diminished, and it didn’t help that much of the team’s offense runs through him. Pumas needs to shake themselves off almost immediately, as they face a tough visit to Tijuana on Saturday, while Veracruz will have their momentum up as they face their biggest home game of the regular season when first place America comes into town.