The Copa por México group stage has come to an end, but not without a couple of surprises taking place beforehand. That said, the favorites to win the title are all in the semifinals, but not in the order one would’ve expected. Let’s take a look at what happened over the weekend.
In Group A, the first match featured on Saturday between Cruz Azul and América ended in a surprising 4-1 blowout in favor of “La Máquina”. After taking a 1-0 lead on a beautiful left foot strike by Sebastián Córdova in the 14th minute, the game fell apart quick for América. There was no real threat of them scoring again. Cruz Azul tied the game up in the 40th minute thanks to an own goal by Federico Viñas, and an avalanche proceded, with Rodríguez, Gutiérrez, and Pineda all wetting their feet. Cruz Azul would go on to score 3 goals in the first 11 minutes of the second half to take over not only the game, but the group completely. In surprising fashion, Cruz Azul continued their high level of play displayed during the regular season and put América in a tight spot, forcing them to depend on Pumas’ outcome.
The second Group A match was between lowly Pumas and lowly Toluca. With Toluca being already eliminated, Pumas was the sole focus, having to win by two or more goals to get in to the next round. Ultimately, both teams showed why they belong to their current seeding, being unable to create quality offensive football, resulting in a bad 0-0 draw. Cruz Azul surprisingly ended up winning the group with 9 points, followed by América with 4. Those two are through to the semis. Pumas ended up in third place with 2 points, and Toluca was last with 1.
Over in Group B, things got a little more interesting. The group kicked off its third week with the 3-1 beating that Chivas gave Mazatlán. Chivas took the lead in the 22nd minute thanks to a Jesús Ángulo shot outside the box, which took a high deflection and was out of the reach of outreached keeper Miguel Fraga. Then, within the first minute of the second half, J. J. Macías was left wide open on an Isaac Brizuela cross and took full advantage of it by connecting on a solid header to give his team a 2-0 lead. Finally, an inexcusable mistake by the Mazatlán defense saw Macías capitalize again to give Chivas the 3-0 dagger. Venezuelan striker Aristeguieta put Mazatlán on the board for their only goal in the tournament. Mazatlán will have a long season if major adjustments aren’t made, as they proved weak in every zone of the pitch.
The group’s second match was played the following night, and featured Tigres and Atlas. “Tuca” and company were expected to take this one easily and run away the group, but fate had something else in mind. “Chaka” Rodriguez’s blunder in the 23rd minute gave Atlas a 1-0 lead. About eight minutes later, a great play by Gignac which was finished by Aquino’s sliding tackle tied the game up for Tigres at 1. Leo Fernández continues to prove he’s up to the task, as he assisted Gignac for the second time in as many games, this time for Tigres’ second goal just three minutes before the half. With Ecuadorian striker Renato Ibarra making his debut with Atlas in the second half with about half an hour to go, the spotlight turned to him. After failing to make any sort of impact in 25 minutes, he exited the game after going for a ball in an awkward manner, which forced his knee sideways upon collision, causing him to fall to the ground immediately, unable to continue. Finally, Atlas’ Alejandro Gómez tied the game up at 2 on a deflected cross in the last minute of stoppage time to prevent Tigres from locking up the group.
The group standings ended with Chivas advancing as 1st place with 6 points, followed by Tigres with 5. Those are the group’s two semifinalists. Atlas ended up with 4 after a poor tournament showing, and in what will surely be one of the league’s worst teams, Mazatlán was last place with 1.
With the group stage over, the semifinal round comes next. The first semifinal will be played on Wednesday, and features Cruz Azul and Tigres, in what is sure to be a hard-fought game which Tigres should prevail in. The other finalist will be decided on Thursday, when Chivas and América square off in yet another Súper Clásico. América should be the one moving on, as Chivas proved inferior in their only real group test (Tigres).