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Pumas say goodbye to their fans by eliminating Toluca

Pumas and Toluca tied 2-2 and in the process ended the Diablos Rojos’ opportunity of making the Liguilla

Pumas salute their home fans for a final time in the Clausura 2019
Rafael Hernandez

Pumas and Toluca tied on Sunday in Ciudad Universitaria as they played an exciting game in which either team could have won. Pumas gave fans a spirited performance, and with the draw, they eliminated Toluca, who needed to win to have any chance of overtaking Xolos and Puebla for the eighth spot. Pumas will still get the criticism because they had a 2-0 lead that they gave up, although they were hampered by a bad referee decision. Still, they did give it all in their final performance in front of a sparsely populated stadium, with fans clearly not happy with the direction this team is headed.

Pumas and Toluca came into the game with Toluca playing for their season, while Pumas only had to give fans a last good performance. It’s why it was surprising when Pumas started all out and seemed to have taken the lead a minute into the game. A Pumas shot got deflected by Toluca’s keeper Alfredo Talavera, but it went right to Brian Figureoa who scored. The goal was called offside but replays showed that he was onside. The referee didn’t go to the VAR and a perfectly good call was unjustly called back.

Pumas continued in front and were unlucky when a David Cabrera shot hit the post. Still, even though Pumas was dominating, Toluca was always dangerous and they came really close to scoring a great goal when Emmanuel Gigliotti had a bicycle kick fall straight into Pumas’ keeper Alfredo Saldivar, who was fortunate to make the save.

Pumas had a great chance but Carlos Gonzalez (Pumas’ best player in the season despite having a bad performance today) selfishly tried the shot and got it saved. Pumas, however, came at it, and with a great combination play with Gonzalez and forward Felipe Mora, ended with Mora’s shot going past keeper Talavera for the 1-0.

The goal looked like it was just but Toluca went in the offense and almost got rewarded when Pumas defender Jeison Angulo gifted them a free kick from an incredible handball. Federico Mancuello made a great shot (in a sign of things to come) but Saldivar made the save in the final play of the 1st half.

The second half continued with once again Pumas going all out and Toluca getting surprised with that rhythm of play. After a cross to the area, Carlos Gonzalez went down in the area and the ref called for a penalty kick. Victor Malcorra stepped up and converted for the 2-0.

With the 2-0 lead, Pumas was surprising Toluca but the result was still not safe, which Pumas would soon find out. Alan Mozo, normally one of the better players in the team but who had a NIGHTMARE game, brought down a Toluca player earning a yellow card and gifting a free kick. Federico Mancuello would then hit an excellent shot to score from the free kick and put the score at 2-1.

Two minutes later, Mozo once again made a terrible play when he brought down Alexis Canelo in the area, gifting Toluca a penalty kick. Canelo himself took it and converted it to tie the game.

After the equalizer, Pumas went more offensive, which opened up the game and made it as both teams had chance after chance. Juan Manuel Iturbe was subbed on for Pumas and made a great shot that forced Talavera to make a save. Toluca then had their own great chance when Gigliotti found Canelo in the area but his shot wend wide.

The back and forth continued, with Carlos Gonzalez having an opportunity on a counter but his shot was saved by Talavera, proving it just wasn’t his day.

Toluca came close to scoring when a low cross from Rodolfo Salinas was wasted by Gigliotti, whose shot went wide from close range.

Finally, in the final play of the game, Iturbe found Martin Rodriguez, who went one on one vs Talavera but his shot went over the bar. The ref whistled and Pumas home season was over, as were Toluca’s chance of qualifying to the Liguilla.

It was a very exciting game for Pumas and Toluca in the final 2019 Clausura game at Estadio Olimpico Universitario. For Pumas, it was a better result than expected, although it left a sour taste in fans in leading by 2-0 and getting tied. It was also a strange game in which the two players who for most fans had the best seasons in the team (Gonzalez and Mozo) had terrible games. In Mozo’s case, he was clearly the worst player on the field.

In the case of Toluca, they must really be kicking themselves for not getting the result and taking advantage of the situation. That said, Toluca have improved and look to have a better future than Pumas, where it looks like there is a definite divorce between fans and President Rodrigo Ares de Parga. Without key signings and with the rumors swirling that Gonzalez and Mozo both will leave the team this summer, it looks like cloudy skies surrounds the team.