Pumas got a win in their home and Apertura 2020 debut by squeaking past Queretaro by the score of 3-2. Pumas came to the game without a head coach after Coach Michel stepped down on Thursday, and they looked lost at times but were able to prevail against a Querataro side that came out with an “Ascenso” level starting lineup after being raided during the summer by Xolos. Pumas will need to improve after they travel to Guadalajara to face struggling Atlas, while Queretaro will make their home debut against Mazatlan FC.
The game started with Queretaro coming out on the attack. Pumas seemed to be surprised, and Queretaro’s Jonathan Betancourt had a great shot that forced Pumas’ goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera to make a great save. Talavera once again had to make a great save off a free kick, as Queretaro was dominant over a lethargic Pumas. Finally Pumas got a chance when Jeronimo Rodriguez got off a left footed shot that forced a great save from Queretaro’s keeper, Gil Alcala. Pumas had another chance when Carlos Gonzalez got the ball in the area and had a thunder pass that was cleared by Queretaro’s defense before it reached Juan Ignacio Dinenno for a tap in goal. It looked like Pumas was improving, but Queretaro still were threatening constantly. Queretaro had another chance when a great play from Betancourt found Omar Islas, whose shot went wide. Talavera made an incredible stop when after a free kick, the ball fell to Angel Sepulveda in the area and he got a near range shot that he brilliantly stopped. Then once against the run of play, Pumas got a corner kick and took advantage to open the score. Nicolas Freire jumped and headed the ball and found Juan Ignacio Dinenno, who was left alone and was able to head it past Alcala for the 1-0. The halftime whistle blew and Pumas was lucky to be going to the dressing room with the lead.
The second half started with the return of Alan Mozo to Pumas as he was subbed in for Luis Quintana. It didn’t take long for Talavera to see some action, as he had to get down to make a save from a headed free kick. Pumas almost responded as Dinenno had a chance in the area but his shot was deflected. Then after the ref went to the VAR, he judged Alfonso Luna intentionally kicking Freire in the face and he was red carded. With Queretaro trailing and now down a player, it seemed like it was going to be a very tough situation for them. Yet Pumas gave them the biggest lifeline when Freire had a terrible back pass to Talavera and placed it on past him to tie the game 1-1. Freire misjudged the distance he was from Talavera and his pass looked like a shot. Talavera had no chance because of the terrible mistake from the defender.
After the goal, Pumas looked wobbly and twice Queretaro came up with strong attacks that looked dangerous. Pumas subbed in Juan Iturbe and subbed out Favio Alvarez, and his impact was almost immediate. Iturbe made a run through the left side and released a thunderous cross into the area that Queretaro’s defender, Daniel Cervantes headed past Alcala for the second own goal of the day and a 2-1 lead to Pumas. Pumas had a great chance when a great pass found Gonzalez in the area, but he gave the ball to Alcala after trying to dribble past him. Things looked good but changed almost immediately when Alan Mozo did a stupid foul in front of the referee. Angel Sepulveda took the free kick and Pumas wall did an awful job by breaking apart and deflecting the ball past Talavera for the 2-2.
Once again Pumas got rattled by the goal, and Queretaro kept at the offense while Pumas wobbled defensively. Pumas finally was able to shake it off and it paid off. After moving the ball through the area, Carlos Gutierrez made a cross into the area and found Dinenno, who got a right footed shot in the area past Alcala for the 3-2 lead. The last minutes had Queretaro going on the attack and coming close off a free kick that Talavera stopped but dropped before Pumas scrambled to clear it. Pumas had a great counter attack but Iturbe wasted it badly with a right footed shot to the stands. In injury time a foul by Pumas’ captain Andres Iniestara was judged to be a yellow but after going to the VAR, it was changed to a red card and Pumas was down to 10 just as Queretaro. Still Pumas held on for the narrow 3-2 win.
With money woes and without a head coach, Pumas seems poised to struggle all season. Pumas barely got the win at home against the team with probably the weakest squad of Liga MX. That being said, with their coach leaving the team three days before, this might be expected and Pumas could be lucky to have faced Queretaro precisely at their most disadvantaged. Pumas is lucky that their next game is away to Atlas, another team that is struggling right now. Queretaro meanwhile looked good at times until they went down to 10 men. Still the team squad looks like the weakest in Mexico and they will suffer a lot because of this. Their home debut against Mazatlan FC looks to be tougher than this match and they probably will get another loss.