Santos Laguna defeated Pumas and came close to settling the Round of 16 Copa MX series when they had a 4-0 lead, but had to settle for a 4-2 win. The game was marred by a controversial play when Pumas committed a penalty kick and went down to 10 men when a ball was handled in the area. The handling of the ball was made by Martin Barragan but the referee red carded 17 year old Jesus Rivas by mistake. Barragan failed to take the fault and Rivas got red carded, putting Pumas down 10 players and making Barragan the villain in the eyes of Pumas fans as well as neutrals. The return leg will be played on Wednesday in Estadio Olimpico Universitario with Pumas needing two goals and totally different level of play.
The game started with Santos trying to quickly make a mark on offense at home. Yet Pumas got the first dangerous chance when after a corner kick, a mistake by Santos keeper Carlos Acevedo allowed Luis Quintana to get a shot off but it was cleared by Santos defenders. Santos came right back, and Pumas keeper Jose Castillo made the same mistake Acevedo did but it went way worse for Pumas. Castillo missed the ball and allowed a free header that Martin Barragan stopped with his arm. The ref gave a penalty kick and red carded the wrong player (Jesus Rivas) which because of the lack of VAR, wasn’t corrected. Castillo made up for his mistake by stopping the penalty kick from Adrian Lozano. Pumas now had a tough road playing away and down to 10 players. A minute later after a play in the area, Santos’ Eduardo Aguirre got a free header just inches away from the area but he incredibly headed it wide in an awful miss. Santos continued all over Pumas in the area, and Sebastian Saucedo had to be subbed out for Jeronimo Rodriguez to reinforce Pumas’ defense. Pumas couldn’t hold on, and Aguirre would make up for his bad mistake when Emilio Orrantia crossed him a ball and he headed it past Castillo for the 1-0. It was almost the same play that Aguirre had missed minutes before, although he was even closer to the goal this time.
Santos came close again when an Octavio Rivero header went straight to Castillo’s hands. Santos almost made it 2-0 when another terrible mistake by Castillo almost gave Aguirre his second header but it went just wide off the post. Pumas almost had a great chance to tie, but Martin Barragan added to his villain role by sending his left footed shot wide in a chance that was as easy as he could get. The halftime whistle blew and Santos could have taken a better lead to it, but they were still up 1-0.
The second half started with Pumas having a tough road, and it wouldn’t take long for it to get tougher. A nice pass from Aguirre found Octavio Rivero, who got a left footed shot past Castillo for the 2-0. Pumas subbed out Barragan for Amaury Garcia ending a game that for Barragan might change his time at Pumas if not his career.
Santos settled the game and probably eliminated Pumas from Copa MX when an Orrantia pass found Rivero in the area, and his shot went past Castillo for the 3-0. Santos had another chance by Rivero, but his shot went wide. It seemed that Pumas had given up and the game was going to be a one way shootout for the home team. Off of a counter attack, Rivero found a wide open Aguirre, who got his shot past Castillo for the 4-0.
But then off a free kick, Bryan Mendoza fell in the area and the ref gave a penalty kick to Pumas. Marco Garcia took the penalty kick and although Acevedo got his hand to it, the ball went in for the 4-1. Santos subbed in Brian Lozano for Emilio Orrantia in what seemed to be a cruel move for Pumas. Santos had another chance but the lobbed shot went over Castillo, but was cleared by Quintana. Acevedo gave Pumas a lifeline when off a scissor kick from Quintana, he bumbled the ball right into the path of Bryan Mendoza and then brought him down. The ref gave Pumas another penalty kick, and Ignacio Malcorra took it and scored with a left footed shot for the 4-2. Santos almost had a chance for a goal when Rivero was wide open but he was ruled offside. Replays showed he wasn’t but since their is no VAR, the play was dead once the ref blew his whistle. The game finished 4-2 but Pumas was lucky to have been given the lifeline to a Copa MX since the series seemed to be settled.
While the game was a total disaster for Pumas, they must count the blessing in Santos gifting them two goals and a lifeline. The series seemed over at 4-0, as Pumas had seemingly given up and a four goal lead was going to be tough to conquer. The situation is still extremely tough, and Santos is sitting pretty but at least Pumas has a chance at home, which they didn’t before the two penalty kicks. Santos will be kicking themselves for not killing the game and the series even when they tried. Still they are in a prime position, and look set to make it to the next round against a Pumas team that is struggling. Santos will travel to Mexico City before the Pumas match, as they have to play Cruz Azul on Saturday in Liga MX. Pumas will also return home as they face Monterrey at home on Sunday. On Wednesday they will face each other with Santos needing to crumble and Pumas to come out swinging for things to take a turn that isn’t likely.