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Pumas come out with a solid win from their home opener

Pumas gets a 2-0 win over Necaxa to start their home season on the right foot

Pumas and Necaxa stand for the Liga MX protocol before the start of Sunday’s game
Rafael Hernandez

Pumas got its first win at home this season, defeating Necaxa by a score of 2-0. Pumas was the better team and took advantage of the home conditions and a big mistake by Alexis Peña to get the deserved three points. The win was the debut at home of new Pumas coach, Michel and the Spaniard must be proud of the performance from the team in tough conditions.

Pumas and Necaxa started the game in a sunny afternoon in Mexico City, in sharp contrast to the rainy weather of previous day. The game looked to be pretty even but suddenly Pumas broke out with a great opportunity. A great combination play between Carlos Gonzalez and Victor Malcorra finished with Malcorra making a left footed shot that Necaxa’s goalkeeper, Hugo Gonzalez, saved into the post. Unfortunately for Pumas, the rebound of the post fell to the Necaxa defense to be able to clear.

Necaxa wouldn’t be lucky next time when they allowed Jeison Angulo all the time to make a cross. His cross found a diving Juan Pablo Vigon, who made an spectacular header to score the 1-0. Vigon was making his debut with Pumas at home and he would end up having a great game.

A minute later, Pumas had a great chance when Malcorra was wide open but unfortunately the ball went to his right foot, and the left footed attacker send his shot up to the stands.

Slowly, Necaxa started to get into the game, including a dangerous play in which Liga MX debutant, Nicholas Freire, had to scramble to clear a ball before it fell to two Necaxa attackers.

The game then evened out in the heat and humidity of Mexico City, which made for a lackluster first half. But Pumas soon looked to have improved and Carlos Gonzalez had a good chance that went straight to the goalkeeper.

In the second half, Necaxa looked to slowly be getting back into the game after a mistake from Jeison Angulo ended up with them getting a free kick. Off the free kick, it looked like Angulo handled a cross and a penalty kick was called. Replays though showed that the ball hit Angulo’s face and then his hand, and a penalty shouldn’t have been called. The ref went to the VAR and corrected his mistake by not giving the penalty kick in what was a key play.

Necaxa seemed to quiet down after the play and Brian Figueroa came close to scoring for Pumas, but Gonzalez sent the ball to a corner kick that the ref missed and gave a goal kick instead. Pumas came close again, with Vigon making a great pass to Carlos Gonzalez, whose shot went wide but would’ve been called back for offside had he scored.

A key sub was made when Brian Figueroa was subbed out for Pablo Barrera. Barrera’s impact was almost immediate and it almost turned into a fight with Cristian Calderon. Off that play, Gonzalez had a close opportunity but his shot deflected off a Necaxa defender.

A couple of minutes later the key play of the game happened when David Cabrera found Gonzalez alone in the area and last man Alexis Peña brought him down. The ref gave a penalty kick to Pumas and a red card to Peña, leaving Necaxa a man down in the heat of CU. Pablo Barrera took the penalty and placed it past Gonzalez to score the 2-0 and finished off Necaxa.

After the goal, Necaxa just held on, while Pumas wasted chances. Off a counter attack, Pablo Barrera’s cross was saved by a diving slide from Necaxa’s defense from a sure opportunity for Juan Manuel Iturbe. Andres Iniestra made a great pass through the middle for Barrera to score but he wasted the opportunity by sending a slow shot straight to Hugo Gonzalez. In the end, Pumas tried but still finished being the overly superior team and getting a more than fair result with the 2-0 win.

While to the neutral observer it might not have been the most exciting win, the victory was solid for the Universitarios. This was a step in the right direction for Pumas under new head coach Michel and after a tough last season under two coaches (David Patiño and Bruno Marioni). Still, they will face a tough battle as they face Tigres, who not only are last season’s champions but will want to bounce back after a somewhat surprising loss against Chivas de Guadalajara. At home, Pumas should face the real test on Sunday after playing a rematch against Atletico San Luis in their Copa MX debut on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Necaxa will return home and face an easier task against historically bad Veracruz. For Coach Guillermo Vasquez, it will be a very important match as he faces his last team before going to Necaxa, a team where he had a major falling out over a salary dispute.