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Pumas comes out on top against leaders Santos Laguna

Pumas beats Santos by a score of 2-0 to get into the Liguilla zone.

Pumas UNAM v Santos Laguna - Torneo Apertura 2019 Liga MX Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images

Pumas defeated league leaders Santos by a score of 2-0 after a great second half. Pumas continued with their good performances at home and were the clear winners after a very even first half. Going into the match, Santos were the current Liga MX leaders, as well as having the league leading goal scorer in Julio Furch, but Pumas were the deserving winners and now enter the Liguilla zone. Pumas will have a clear chance to add points on the road next week when they face battered Chivas, while Santos will face an even tougher away visit to new Clasico Regio winners, Tigres.

The game started with Santos coming out fast and having the best chances. Four minutes in, Brian Lozano had a great shot that Pumas’ keeper Alfredo Saldivar made a great save on to stop the goal. Three minutes later off a free kick, Saldivar made the mistake of not holding to the ball and allowing Ulises Rivas to shoot in the area but his shot went wide. Rivas then had another chance after a corner kick, but his long range shot went wide.

Pumas had their first chance in the 15th minute, but Juan Iturbe’s shot went straight to Santos’ keeper Jonathan Orozco. After that play, the game got very even and neither team had control of the match or created much danger.

In the 32th minute, Pablo Barrera made a great pass to Victor Malcorra, but inexplicably he chose to shoot with his left foot and the shot went wide. Malcorra complained about the pass, but it was all on him as he had a clear opportunity for his right foot but chose to go with his preferred left foot, wasting the best opportunity of the first half.

Pumas didn’t get another chance until a mix up between Orozco and Santos defender Doria almost resulted in an own goal. Off the ensuing corner kick, Juan Pablo Vigon had a wide open header, but he failed to connect well and the shot was easily grabbed by Orozco. The rest of the first half had Pumas finishing as the better team, but not by much and with very little danger for Santos.

The second half started, and this time it was Pumas who took control of the game. First Pumas had a good chance when Gonzalez went through the Santos defense but couldn’t get to the ball before Orozco did. Then a great cross by Barrera was missed by Gonzalez and then incredibly cleared by Carlos Orrantia before a wide open Malcorra could arrive to just push the ball into the net.

Pumas now had taken control of the match, but Santos had a good opportunity on a counter when Lozano made a cross that turned into a shot and hit the post. Had it gone in, it would have been a copycat goal of Iturbe’s last week against Cruz Azul. Pumas then answered back with Carlos Gonzalez getting a great pass and then releasing a thunderous shot that Doria deflected past Orozco for the 1-0. Pumas had the deserved lead and continued to dominate the match.

After Saldivar had to clear a cross off a free kick, Pumas was back into creating danger with Iturbe forcing Orozco to make another key save. As the game continued, Pumas sat back and it was Santos who had the possession for the final minutes. After a Pumas mistake allowed Lozano to make a great cross past Saldivar and to Eduardo Aguirre, the ex-Pumas striker’s shot was miraculously saved by a diving Alan Mozo, who was able to clear the ball off the line. Unfortunately for Santos, Aguirre crashed into the post and got a severe cut that brought back the image of last night’s game accident with Gio Dos Santos. Aguirre had to leave the field and Santos finished with 10 men.

In extra time, it seemed the game was over but the ref went to the VAR after a clash between a Santos defender and Martin Rodriguez. After reviewing the play, the match official decided to give ap penalty to Pumas. David Cabrera took the penalty and scored to give Pumas the 2-0 win.

The win is a big result for Pumas, especially because of their second half performance. Not only might it have been the best team Pumas has defeated this season, but their best performance this season. With the win, Pumas now gets a great opportunity for an away win against a Chivas team reeling after losing to their main rivals America and with a new coach. Above all, however, Pumas rose up to the Liguilla zone and are closer to their main goal of playing in the postseason.

As for Santos Laguna, this was a small stumble at the top and now will face a tough task as they face Tigres away. They will need to see improvement if they want an upset against their northern rivals.