Here are your five conclusions from the Final of the 2018 Liga MX Clausura.
Santos just wanted it more
We can delve more into the details as to why Santos is the 2018 Liga MX Clausura Champion, but the simplest explanation is just they wanted it more. Early in this tie, it was the Diablos Rojos who took the initiative and actually could have scored a couple of goals at the Estadio Corona. However, Luis Quiñones’s goal in the First Leg completely changed the tie. Santos Laguna went from a cautious, almost nervous, team to a side forced to go on the attack. For the exception of Gabriel Hauche’s goal in the second leg, that was one of the last times we saw Toluca do anything different. Even when the match was 1-1 and Toluca had plenty of the possession, they never really opted to move away from their vertical-style approach. Perhaps they didn’t want to suffer the same fate that América did in the Semifinals when they made it an up and down affair and received a 4-1 thumping. In contrast, Santos did a better job managing the game, and when it came to defending their lead, they did it like true “Guerreros”.
The goal that never came
Gabriel Hauche’s goal with eight minutes to go was suppose to change the game but it never did. With Toluca needing two goals to force extra time, the onus was always on the Diablos Rojos to put the ball inside the box and score. For a brief moment they did and they got a goal out of it, but there was very little after that.
If you watched Barcelona’s famous comeback against PSG over again, you know there was nothing pretty about it. As all comebacks, it was messy and it was won with lots of heart and courage. Toluca didn’t do that. Instead, they pretty much stuck by what they did in the first few minutes of the First Leg, as if they weren’t already facing a team with a two-goal lead and men fully-committed in tracking back and defending. As the saying goes, “las finales no se juegan, se ganan”. Only Santos got the memo.
Big performances aplenty for Santos
Djaniny Tavares, Julio Furch, Brian Lozano, “Gallito” Vazquez, Jonathan Orozco, Carlos Izquierdoz....the list just goes on. Even when not at 100%, Djaniny was arguably the best player in this 2018 Liga MX Clausura. Meanwhile, where would Santos be without Jonathan Orozco’s big saves? Defensively speaking, you cannot discount the work of guys like Izquierdoz and Gerardo Alcoba, who were absolute warriors at the back. Even the more fringe players like Javier Cortes did what they had to in order to help Santos lift the title. It was a total team effort, and that is why Santos are the rightful champions of Mexico.
“Sambu” misses out
Speaking of performances and big-time players, credit has to go to Rubens Sambueza. Say what you want about “Sambu”, but he is one of the best midfield players to arrive in Mexico in the last few years. After Pablo Barrientos’s untimely injury, Sambueza single-handedly put the team on his shoulders. Unfortunately for him, it wasn’t meant to be, and now you have to start wondering what is next for Sambu. At 34-years-old, he is looking a lot like that veteran center in the NBA that is trying to adapt to a more 3-point line league. There is still few players in Mexico better than Sambu when playing in transition, but you get the feeling that the game around him is slowly changing. Will he have another opportunity like this to lift another title? That is tough to say.
Robert Dante Siboldi gets his prize
Finally, for a manager that had to convince his chairman with a late-night call to give him the full-time job, Siboldi did a phenomenal job this season. He modified several of his players’ positioning, intensified player competition within the squad, and found a way to get Djaniny Tavares and Julio Furch working again. Moreover, it is safe to say he outcoached each one of his opponents in the Liguilla and made all the right decisions down the stretch. A worthy manager and a worthy champion.