Here your five conclusions from the ninth week of play in the 2018 Liga MX Clausura.
Monterrey take advantage of off-form Rafael Marquez
The growing belief around Mexican fútbol is that Rafael Marquez’s time may be coming to an end. The Atlas skipper put a lamenting performance against Monterrey on Friday, causing two penalties and getting sent off for a terrible tackle on Aviles Hurtado. Atlas went on to lose the game 1-0.
Marquez can’t be entirely blamed. This Rojinegros team continues to lack quality in a number of areas, and new manager Ruben Omar Romano has done very little to instill any spirit into the team. Whether Marquez’s time is up or not remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain, he is definitely fed up with his team’s situation. Atlas are last in the league table, and realistically, the future of the club is not looking good.
Lobos BUAP stun doomed Veracruz
Such are the bizarre workings of this sport that one week you can feel like anything is possible and the next like there is no hope. While much of the focus on the lead-up to this week was on América vs Tijuana and Pumas vs Chivas, the biggest game of the week might have been played in Puebla between Lobos BUAP and Veracruz. The latter arrived after taking down Pumas UNAM in Mexico City and earning a point against league leaders Club America. But on Saturday, everything came crashing down for Veracruz, losing 5-0 to Lobos BUAP in a game with serious relegation implications.
Veracruz could hardly argue the scoreline, and as things stand, the Tiburones Rojos remain dead last in the relegation table. A win could have given Veracruz a real chance at overtaking Lobos in the relegation table. The outlook now, though, looks bleak.
Xolos de Tijuana hold Club América scoreless
Not even four days had passed since Club América’s 5-1 thumping of Saprissa in the CONCACAF Champions League, and las Águilas were held scoreless at home to Xolos de Tijuana. Rotations were the name of the game on Saturday, and thanks to a mixture of discipline and an inspired Gibran Lajud, Tijuana were able to earn a 0-0 draw at the Estadio Azteca.
Tijuana is already proving to be a tough team to break down this season, and in that regard, this result doesn’t come to a surprise to many. That said, Club America’s lack of comfort on the ball should be a little worrying, although Gibran Lajud had perhaps one of the best nights of his young career. Club America’s real test comes next week against Chivas.
Pumas struggle again versus Chivas
With Club América having drawn with Tijuana, Sunday’s match against Chivas presented Pumas a chance to go level on points at the table of the table. Pumas had quietly arrived to this game with two defeats in their last two league matches, but with the advantage of having virtually a week to plan out this game, while Chivas had a midweek CONCACAF Champions League match away to Cibao in the Dominican Republic.
Pumas started the game with confidence, and in a span of four minutes, took a quick lead through Nicolas Castillo. After that, however, it was all Chivas. The Rebaño Sagrado’s fears of fatigue and lack of preparation gradually disappeared, and Matias Almeyda’s side ended up thoroughly outplaying the hosts. There was a made-up penalty, sure, but nobody can deny Chivas didn’t deserve it. In fact, they came close to winning it at the end, but Oswaldo Alanis failed to score his second penalty kick of the day to leave the score at 1-1.
Chivas still face an uphill battle to reverse their 2018 Clausura season, but at the very least, they are turning their performances away from home into points. Their most important performance, though, might have to be next week against Club America, where they have no choice but to win.
Santos Laguna find joy in Cruz Azul win
Santos Laguna has proven to be one of the best teams this season. After beating Cruz Azul 2-0 on Sunday, the Guerreros have won three of their last four league matches and are leveled in points with league leaders Club América at the top of the league table.
Collectively, this Santos team looks to finally know exactly what it is. As oppose to previous seasons, there has rarely been a loss of focus on defense and offensively, there seems to be a clarity of purpose unseen since their last league title victory.
Ironically, Sunday’s win game came against the manager that won them their last league title, Pedro Caixinha. In contrast to Santos, Cruz Azul look like a team with no clear path, and it will be interesting to see just what tactical changes Caixinha makes as we head to the second half of the season.