Pumas climbed into first place with a 2-1 win over Atlas. It was a tough match with a lot of fouls, but Pumas got through with a late goal off a header and surprised everybody by climbing into first place along with America with six points. Atlas meanwhile got their second loss in as many games and Coach Rafael Puente Jr’s job might be in jeopardy after a disastrous run in the cancelled Clausura 2020 continues on in the Apertura 2020. Pumas will now return home to face Juarez FC, while Atlas will face a do or die match for Puente Jr against struggling Atletico San Luis in San Luis Potosi.
The game with Pumas giving Erik Lira’s his debut in Liga MX as a starter, as he took the place of suspended Andres Iniestra. Atlas also came in with a lot of numerous changes because of injuries. The game stared very lively with both teams having chances. The first good opportunity went to Atlas, who got a free kick but Pumas’ keeper Alfredo Talavera got to the ball. A big clash between Pumas’ defender Johan Vasquez and Atlas attacker Ignacio Jeraldino looked like it could have ended with an injury but luckily both players were alright and Jeraldino got a yellow card. A shot from an Atlas attacker was blocked by Pumas defender Nicolas Freire. Atlas continued to dominate, and Javier Correa had a header that forced Talavera to make another save. The game continued to have a lot of clashes, and Pumas’ Favio Alvarez had to go out for some time with what looked to be an injury. Then Pumas had the best chance in the area when after a pass went past Atlas’ keeper Camilo Vargas, but Juan Ignacio Dinenno’s shot was deflected by an Atlas defender. Then Favio Alvarez, who had already returned, got the ball in the area and made a great cross straight to Dinenno, who got a close range header past Vargas for the 1-0. Pumas surprisingly got the lead, but they always had the capacity to get a tie against a weak squad like Atlas. Later after a cross, Carlos Gonzalez fell in the area and the referee gave Pumas a penalty kick. The foul always looked flimsy, and after going to VAR the ref called it off. Pumas held on and took the lead to halftime.
The second half started with Alvarez coming out and Juan Iturbe being subbed in. Atlas almost came close to scoring in the first minute when a cross from Ignacio Malcorra was cleared by a defender off the feet from Jeraldino. Pumas came back with a header from Gonzalez in the area that went wide. Then in a move that looked like pay back, Ignacio Malcorra got the ball and got into the area and got a shot off that deflected off Vasquez into the back of the net for the 1-1. Malcorra celebrated wildly in what looked to be directed at Pumas fans who turned against him in his final years at Pumas. Malcorra later came close again as he took on Carlos Gutierrez, who was having a terrible game, and got a close that an Atlas player couldn’t reach for what could have been a tap in. Pumas answered by subbing out Sebastian Saucedo for Alan Mozo. In the 62nd minute of the game, a partial blackout occurred as most of the lights went out. Luckily it didn’t take long for the lights to be restored and the game continued with Malcorra getting another chance but it went straight into Talavera’s hands. Off of a free kick, Atlas got a free header and scored later off it but it was rightly called off because of it being offside. Later Talavera had to make a save on a shot from Jesus Isijara. Pumas subbed out Carlos Gutierrez and Jeronimo Rodriguez for Alejandro Mayorga and Brian Figueroa. Pumas came close when a great right footed shot from Iturbe forced Vargas to make a great save. Then a great run by Iturbe was finished with a deflected cross that fell right into the path of Dinenno, who got another close range header past Vargas for the 2-1. Pumas then subbed out Dinenno for Amaury Garcia, which was Pumas fifth substitution but after four moves (one of the subs was on halftime which doesn’t count as one of the three times during game where substitutions are permitted). In the final minutes, Atlas came close with a free kick that Gonzalez scrambled to clear. Then in a corner kick, Pumas got a counter without a Atlas having a keeper (Vargas went to the area to head it and fell after clashing with a defender) but they did a terrible job with Mozo getting his shot blocked by the only Atlas defender. In the last play of the game, off a free kick, Talavera went out and missed the ball but the ball fell into a Pumas defender who cleared the ball as the ref whistled the end of the game.
With an interim coach and with money woes and a weaker squad, Pumas being in first place is a total surprise. Even though they haven’t showed the best level of play, they got the results behind Juan Ignacio Dinenno who has scored four of the five Pumas goals scored this season. Dinenno has picked up his level and helped a team as Carlos Gonzalez has struggled so far. Pumas has also benefited from a schedule that has them played two of the weaker squads in Mexico in Atlas and Querataro. This could continue, because although Juarez looks to be a better squad than last season they are still not one of the best in the league. Atlas meanwhile got another loss, and although they got hurt by injuries and positive COVID-19 results (which pushed the game from Saturday to Monday) coming in, they are still playing at a terrible level, something that has been the constant since Rafael Puente took over the team early last season. Atlas will have a tough away match against Atletico San Luis as rumors will be strong that Puente could be done with the team if he doesn’t get the result.