After three straight winless games, Rayados got back to their winning ways after defeating 17th placed Atlético San Luis on the road yesterday by a final of 2-1. The match featured a flurry of opportunities created by both sides, with San Luis owning the majority of them, which made for a very enjoyable match. After an ugly draw at home vs. Atlas 12 days ago followed by a huge blunder by CB Nico Sánchez which cost his team the “W” last weekend at Pachuca, Rayados were once again pushed to defend most of the game within their own half, with San Luis dominating 65% of ball possession.
After San Luis got off to the quicker start through the first 20 minutes, generating three scoring opportunities, it was Mohamed’s squad who got on the board first, thanks to a good connection between LM Jesús Gallardo and CF Aké Loba, leaving the Ivorian in great position to accelerate and beat CB Ventura Alvarado to the spot, allowing Rayados to take the 1-0 lead in the 19th minute. The visitors continued pressing “Memo” Vázquez’s side for the ensuing ten minutes, until a long throw-in during the 31st minute was headed straight to ST Mauro Quiroga’s feet, which the Argentinian cooly controlled, and back-healed into the net to even the score. Despite the home team’s goal, it was the visitors who closed out the first half on a higher note, culminating in a strike by Maxi Meza just outside the penalty box which curled beautifully into the net, leaving outstretched keeper Felipe Rodríguez without a chance.
The second half began with a much more montonous tone, lacking emotion and real danger. Up until the 56th minute that is, when César Montes committed a careless foul just outside his penalty box, causing him to be booked for the second time in the match, after having been shown his first yellow for protesting just six minutes earlier. This left Rayados with ten men and forced them into their own half for the remainder of the match. However, it still didn’t help the home side create any threat to Hugo González’s goal. And like that, Rayados managed to win their second road game of the season.
The bottom line is that Rayados won a match they had to win if they wished to keep a dog in the fight for the top 4 spots. The positive to the story is that they’ve been shown a red card for the second consecutive match, and had it not been for Sánchez’s mistake last week, they would’ve won both of them. Still, the fact they’ve managed to avoid losing either of these road matches is a huge plus, and speaks volumes. On the down side, however, San Luis (second to last place) utterly dominated possession and the game’s clearest opportunities. Rayados continue to show a lack of hunger during certain stretches of games and that has to leave both their front office and their fans scratching their heads. Moreso, the fact that a championship contender gets outplayed and dominated by a near last place in that manner has to be concerning for Duilio Davino.
Mohamed and company continue to navigate through the season, now tied in 6th place with their biggest rivals, Tigres, with 17 points. There is no doubt they will make the playoffs, but the fact they’ve been unable to put together one single convincing win all season has to force the question of whether they’re real contenders for this season’s title. They have the star power needed to go all the way, but we all know that hunger and desire outplays stardom in the big moments. Whether Mohamed can find that hunger within his team remains to be seen.