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Pumas clinch Round of 16 appearance in Copa MX

Pumas tied FC Juarez 1-1 to finish first place in their group.

Pumas UNAM v Chivas - Torneo Clausura 2018 Liga MX
Matias Alustiza was key in getting the tie in Ciudad Juarez
Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images

Pumas clinched a spot in the second round of the Copa MX for the first time since 2013 with an away draw in Ciudad Juarez. The 1-1 tie gave UNAM the top spot in the group and got them through to the round of 16. Their next game will be rematch against group rival Lobos BUAP at home for a spot in the quarterfinals.

Pumas went back to action, after a disappointing home draw against Chivas, for the final group game in the Copa MX. A tie would have given them the top spot but they had a tough away game against FC Juarez. While Juarez was at the bottom of the group, they were at home for a chance to knock down the biggest name in the group. A win could also give them a spot to the next round, although their massive goal differential would be a tough hill to climb.

Pumas came ready to play and took control early in the match. A nice combination play between Matias Alustiza, making a rare Copa MX start, and Erick “Cubo” Torres ended with a chance that Torres placed past the keeper for the 1-0. Pumas took the lead easily and it looked like it would a lot easier game than expected.

Juarez made a push for control of the game but Pumas kept dominating until a play in the final minutes of the first half. Torres went for a ball but missed and stepped on a Juarez defender. The ref gave Cubo a red card and Pumas would have to face the rest of the game a man down.

The second half changed completely because of Torres’ actions. FC Juarez dominated but their finishing wasn’t good, and goalkeeper Bernabe Magaña made a lot of good saves to help Pumas keep the lead. Pumas’s Copa MX team benefited from Spanish defender Alejandro Arribas getting a red card against Chivas on Sunday. Him being suspended for Saturday’s game against Leon meant he started the game against Juarez and helped Pumas defense a lot during those final minutes.

Even with Arribas’s and Magaña’s heroic play, it wasn’t enough to keep a clean sheet after Pumas gave away a penalty. Carlos Ibarguen converted it and tied the game. But Pumas held on the final minutes to get the tie and qualify to the next round while Juarez was eliminated.

While it’s a minor tournament for Pumas, so much that they’ve played all of their games with mostly their second team, the qualification to the next round is great news for the Universitarios. This will be their first knockout stage qualification since 2013. It’s true that Pumas missed a couple of those tournaments in between because of Copa Libertadores and CONCACAF Champions league action, but they also participated and got eliminated enough to see that it’s been a stain for the team. They will now face Lobos BUAP team at home on Wednesday for their Round of 16 game. They faced each other in the group, and while Lobos beat Pumas at home 2-0, the Universitarios went on to crush them 4-1 at Universitario. A repeat performance might be difficult as both teams should be more interested in the Copa MX now that direct elimination is on the table. Still, while Pumas has been slumping somewhat in the league, a Copa MX good performance might be a big boost to this team and maybe the better opportunity for some silverware.