Led by a great game by Juan Manuel Iturbe, Pumas were able to convincingly beat Ascenso MX team Zacatepec by a score of 3-0 and qualify to the Quarterfinals of the Copa MX. While not giving one of their best performances on the field, their superior individual talent pulled them through and turned the game into a comfortable victory. Pumas will now face Dorados in the Quarterfinals, in what has now turned into a “now or never” tournament as their side of the draw now holds Dorados, Veracruz and FC Juarez, teams that are all inferior in terms of level of talent in a potential path to the Copa MX final.
Pumas started the game heavily favored against a Zacatepec team playing in the second division of Mexico, Liga de Ascenso. Yet those expectations played a part in overconfidence from the Pumas team, and they didn’t give their best game. Jeison Angulo gave Zacatepec their first opportunity when he fell and gave the ball away, in what ended with a Giovani Hernandez shot to goalkeeper Miguel Angel Fraga.
Zacatepec had another great opportunity from a Pumas giveaway but Rodrigo Prieto’s lack of speed meant that he had to settle from a long range shot that went straight to Fraga.
Finally, Pumas woke up and after a great individual play from Juan Manuel Iturbe, Pumas took the lead 1-0. Iturbe got a pass and with a swift move was able to open space and produce a strong shot past the goalkeeper for the first goal.
The game continued with Pumas having most of the ball but not producing much and with Zacatepec always proving worrisome because of mistakes done by Pumas. Rodolfo Salinas came close to a tie but Fraga made a good save of his header.
But moments later, once again it was Iturbe who changed the game with the 2-0. Iturbe got the ball through the Zacatepec defense and sent a long range shot into a corner for his second goal. The shot was well placed but Zacatepec’s goalkeeper, Victor Hugo Hernandez, could have done more and was caught totally by surprise.
Zacatepec came close to scoring their goal when a Carlos Zamora header hit the post but luckily for Pumas then went straight to Fraga’s hands. Pumas took a 2-0 lead to halftime.
The second half continued with Pumas having the ball but once again committing mistakes that gave Zacatepec life. After a free kick for Zacatepec, Fraga came out late for the ball and gave Salinas a free header that would have gone in had he not headed it wide of the unprotected net.
The game was effectively put away when once again a great combination play between Iturbe and Martin Rodriguez left Rodriguez with ample space and he placed a shot past Hernandez for the 3-0. Once again keeper Hernandez got surprised by the ball and should’ve done better on a shot that wasn’t very powerful.
If the goal hadn’t killed the game it would be the actions of substitute Julian Cardozo. Minutes after coming on, after not getting a foul call, Cardozo started cursing out the referee and got red carded because of it. With 10 men, Zacatepec’s night was finished and Pumas also conserved energy with only a shot by Carlos Gonzalez that keeper Hernandez failed to control being the only dangerous chance until the end of the game.
While Pumas didn’t have a great overall performance, they were deserving winners as most of Zacatepec’s chances came off bad mistakes caused by Pumas’ lackadaisical efforts. Pumas will need to improve against a Dorados teams inspired by the figure of their head coach Diego Armando Maradona, who will make an exciting return to the stadium where he played in the Group stages of the 1986 World Cup that he won. However, Pumas should be favored against Dorados and they should take the opportunity of having such a favorable draw that got even better with the results of the Round of 16. Pumas has the most favorable path to the Copa Mx Final they have ever had since the return of the competition. It will be up to Coach Bruno Marioni to take advantage of it.