Santos was heavily favored coming onto their match against Atlas, but an injury to center back Matheus Dória forced Los Guerreros to go outside of their comfort zone, switching formations and rearranging personnel to grit out a 1-0 win. Julio Furch’s penalty in stoppage time in the first half was the difference, as Atlas has now lost four in a row and six of their last seven across all competitions.
Atlas took the game to Santos early, with Santos committing a foul deep in the first 20 seconds and giving up the first good chance at goal just two minutes in. In the sixth minute, former D.C. United forward Luciano Acosta nutmegged a defender, drove through the defense, and hit a shot that just whistled wide of the net. Santos would get a good opportunity in the sixth when Gerardo Arteaga hit a shot from distance but Camilo Vargas made a solid save on the shot. Minutes later, Santos would stretch Atlas’ defense with a cross from Brian Lozano on the left to fellow Uruguayan Fernando Gorriarán on the right. Gorriarán then turned the pass back centrally to Julio Furch, who was well marked by Hugo Nervo. Nervo and goalkeeper Camilo Vargas combined to get Furch off of the ball and snuff out the chance.
In the 20th minute, center backs Félix Torres and Matheus Dória went for a ball and clashed heads. Both players were bloodied, and Dória was taken out of the game with his nose askew and his shirt stained in blood. Dória was substituted out for Diego Valdés, with Santos playing a three man back line that saw Ulíses Rívas drop back into coverage in something like a 3-1-4-2 formation. To his credit, Rívas did an admirable job in this hybrid position. Santos’ options were limited, as regular center back Hugo Rodríguez was forced to miss the match due to a red card in the last match out against FC Juárez.
The play was largely even, with neither side getting many good chances until just into stoppage time when Ismael Govea held onto Torres as he attempted to go up and head the ball. Referee Oscar Macias whistled and pointed to the spot, despite the protestations of the Atlas players. Julio Furch stepped up and took the penalty and Vargas did well to save the attempt, but the rebound went directly to Furch and his follow-up shot hit the back of the net to give the hosts the lead heading into the break.
Santos didn’t let up after the break. Immedately after the restart, Santos would break down field. Furch would play a sass over to Brian Lozano, who dummied it to a wide open Emilio Orrantía, but Vargas made a fantastic diving save. Santos would continue to have the lion’s share of chances throughout the remainder of the match, but couldn’t finish them off. Camilo Vargas was stellar and his saves certainly kept Atlas in the game, but Santos also was wasteful with some of their chances.
While this loss will certainly not help to endear Rafael Puente, Jr. to the Atlas fans, Atlas did well to frustrate Santos for the majority of the game. Toward the end of the match, Santos players were committing fouls more out of frustration than anything else, and as poor as Atlas has been this tournament they should look for and accept even the moral victories.
Santos heads on the road to face Pachuca next Saturday, while Atlas will host their biggest rival Chivas in the Clásico Tapatío on Saturday as well.
Santos Laguna: Jonathan Orozco; Gerardo Arteaga, Matheus Dória (Diego Valdés, 23’), Félix Torres, Josecarlos Van Rankin; Brian Lozano, Fernando Gorriarán, Ulíses Rívas, Emilio Orrantía (Eryc Castillo, 63’); Julio Furch, Eduardo Aguirre (Adrián Lozano, 73’)
Atlas: Camilo Vargas; Diego Barbosa, Germán Conti, Martín Nervo, Ismael Govea; Ángel Márquez, Edgar Zaldivar (Edson Rivera, 73’); Ían Torres, Luciano Acosta (Brayan Trejo, 81’), Jesús Isijara (Javier Correa, 53’); Ignacio Jeraldino (Brayan Trejo, 81’)
Scoring: Santos Laguna - Julio Furch (45+2’); Atlas - None
Disciplinary: Santos Laguna - Javier Correa (Yellow - 59’); Atlas - Martín Nervo (Yellow - 31’)