Atlas got a great result as they opened their semifinal with a 1-0 away win over a Pumas team that was dominated at times. Atlas was by far the more prepared team and took advantage of a cautious Pumas team that had no answer after going down a goal. Atlas’ coach Diego Cocca totally dominated Pumas’ coach Andres Lillini with the perfect plan that neutralized a Pumas team that was riding high after defeating America. The result now forces Pumas to not only need to win in Estadio Jalisco on Sunday, but to do so by a two goal difference as a one goal win would still give Atlas the ticket to the Liga MX final because of their better season record.
The first half started with Pumas coming out with the same lineup that won the match against America. Atlas also came out with their best lineup. The first minutes had the surprise that Atlas went on the offense and were having the better attacks, unlike what had happened last week against America. A good cross into the area from Jairo Torres could have lead to a good opportunity, but the ball was just of reach for Julian Quiñones. Later Quiñones got off a bicycle kick that easily fell to Pumas’ goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera. Pumas started to get more possession, but weren’t able to create much with it. A slide by Efrain Velarde against Torres forced the referee to go to VAR, but after seeing it he decided it wasn’t a foul. Atlas started to sit back, giving Pumas fits with their defensive work. Anderson Santamaria then got off a shot from outside the area but Talavera handled it well. Then after a good play, Julio Furch was allowed time and space and got off a great shot from outside the area that went past Talavera for the 1-0 lead. It was a deserved goal for an Atlas team that had been the better side. Then off of a corner kick, Pumas got a four-on-four counter which ended with Sebastian Saucedo being brought down by Jeremy Marquez and the referee giving a penalty kick. The call was dubious, and the referee went to VAR and called it off. That turned out to be the last chance, as the halftime whistle blew and Atlas went into the locker room with a key goal and having had the better half.
The second half started with Pumas subbing out Sebastian Saucedo for Diogo de Oliveira. Pumas then had a good chance when Diogo tried to find Juan Ignacio Dinenno in the area, but a great slide from Santamaria took the ball off his feet. Atlas could have had a good chance on a three-on-three counter, but it ended with a wide shot from Torres. Pumas then proceeded to waste a chance off of a free kick when a cross found a wide open Favio Alvarez, but his shot went well wide. Atlas almost had a great opportunity after Nico Freire fell and gave the ball up to Quiñones, but Freire was saved by Arturo Ortiz in clearing the ball off Quiñones’ feet. Pumas wasted a great chance when Dinenno got off a shot when Alan Mozo was making a solo run and instead his shot bounced off Diogo in an incredibly poor decision. Atlas subbed out Jeremy Marquez for Edgar Zaldivar, while Pumas subbed out Washington Corozo (who had a very poor game) for Jose Rogerio. Pumas kept trying to attack and they had the possession, but desperation was coming through as they looked even more toothless than at the start of the half. Pumas subbed out Leonel Lopez for Higor Meritao. Off of a clearance it looked like Atlas’ goalkeeper Camilo Vargas hurt himself and would need medical attention, but he would remained in the game. Atlas subbed out Julian Quiñones for Christopher Trejo. Pumas then had a great opportunity when a cross into the area almost found a diving Dinenno, but the ball was cleared by an Atlas defender just before it reached his head. Diogo then ended up winning the ball and having a great opportunity with four Pumas players in the area, but his pass went right to an Atlas defender. Atlas subbed out Julio Furch for Franco Troyansky. Then in the last minutes, a great pass found Meritao in the area but his left footed shot was brilliantly saved by Vargas. It was the best chance of the evening for Pumas but also the last, and Atlas got a key win that has them with one foot in the final.
Atlas got a great result, and more importantly they did so deservedly. They looked to be in control for the majority of the match, as they knew how to play a Pumas side that came in high on themselves after defeating America and might have paid for it dearly. Pumas were neutralized early, and then after going down a goal they never had an answer to threaten Atlas. Goalkeeper Vargas came up big in the final minutes, but for the most part didn’t have to do much work. Now Pumas will have to go to Guadalajara and get a win by two goals against an Atlas side that is defensively very solid. Coach Diego Cocca had the upper hand over Coach Andres Lillini, and it doesn’t seem that there will be a change in three days where Lillini can get over them. Pumas has however been playing better away from home, going into the game with two wins away this postseason. Unfortunately, they don’t just need to win but to do so by two goals and it might just be a bridge to far too cross.