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Atlas loses against Pumas, still advances to Liga MX Final

Pumas got a 1-0 win but it wasn’t enough to counter Atlas’ 1-0 win in the first leg.

Atlas v Pumas UNAM - Playoffs Torneo Grita Mexico A21 Liga MX Photo by Alfredo Moya/Jam Media/Getty Images

Atlas made it to the Liga MX Final for the first time since 1999 even with losing 1-0 at home against Pumas. Atlas was the better team, but the game had a wild finish after getting a goal. Unfortunately, the game was marred by controversy from a bad job from referee Jorge Perez Duran. Still Atlas was the better team for 180 minutes and now hopes to end the longest drought in Liga MX and win their first Liga MX title since 1951.

The first half started with Pumas coming out with two forwards, Diogo de Oliveira and Juan Ignacio Dinenno, knowing they needed to win by two goals while Atlas came out with the same linueup they had been playing with. After a couple of even minutes, Atlas had the first chance when Jairo Torres got a shot from outside the area but it went wide. Minutes later a cross into the area was headed from close range by Julio Furch, but Pumas’ goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera made a great one armed save. Later a cross into the area was just missed by Julian Quiñones, who would have had an extreme close range shot had he connected with it. After a pass in the area, Torres got past his defender and got off a right footed shot that forced Talavera to make another save. Once again Atlas looked to be the better prepared team, as Pumas wasn’t creating anything with the limited possession that they had. A great cross from David Barbosa forced Nicolas Freire to make a great clearance. Then a great pass by Furch almost found Quiñones in the area, but Talavera was able to clear the ball before he got to it. Then after a combination of plays, a shot forced Talavera to make a save. Then after another combination of plays, it ended with a bicycle kick from Aldo Rocha that went just wide. After Pumas lost the ball and allowed a three-on-three, Furch made a pass that Torres slid past but once again Talavera made a great save. Pumas had a great counter in a four-on-three situation, but the pass was given to Favio Alvarez whose slow level of play allowed Atlas to get back on defense, finishing it with a bad shot from Diogo, trying to save a play that Alvarez had killed. Atlas could have had a counter, but it ended with a deflected wide shot from Quiñones. The halftime whistle blew and Atlas had completely dominated a Pumas team that needed the win but had no clue how to break through or complete an offensive attack.

The second half started with Pumas subbing out Diogo de Oliveira, Leonel Lopez, and Higor Meritao for Washington Corozo, Marco Garcia, and Jose Rogerio as Pumas needed to score. Atlas had a good opportunity when Quiñones won a ball after Alan Mozo failed to defend and his cross and found Furch, but it went wide. Pumas subbed out an injured Favio Alvarez (who had a terrible game) for Christian Battochio. After a slide, it looked like Quiñones got injured and needed medical attention. Atlas continued to have possession against a Pumas side that still had no clue. Rogerio got off a shot from outside the area, but it went well wide. After a good run that almost led to a chance, Quiñones finally gave up because of his injury, asking to be subbed out with Christopher Trejo taking his place. After a run, Erik Lira and Furch clashed and started a minor scuffle. Off a corner kick, Pumas could have had a chance when a cross missed everybody including a wide open Jose Rogerio, who failed to connect with it. On an ensuing corner kick, Lira was given time and space to get off a left footed shot that Atlas’ goalkeeper Camilo Vargas failed to control and a left the ball there for Juan Ignacio Dinenno to get to the ball, getting a left footed shot past Vargas for the 1-0 lead. It was totally against the run of play, and a total shock to the crowd after Pumas had done nothing to threaten Vargas. Atlas almost responded immediately after with an incredible play when a cross into the area got to a wide open Furch, who was inches from the line and had a tap in, but incredibly the ball went wide in perhaps one of the biggest misses in Liga MX history (it was that bad). Atlas subbed out Luis Reyes for Anibal Chala. Off of a counter, Pumas made a great play in which a cross by Mozo found Corozo but his header went wide. In the play, Dinenno got a bad cut and needed medical attention. It took a long time and it seemed that they couldn’t get his cut under control. The referee went to VAR to check it as replays showed that it was Anderson Santamaria who had cut him with his elbow but he decided it wasn’t a foul. Atlas subbed out Jairo Torres for Edgar Zaldivar. Then after a cross into the area, Dinenno tried to do a bicycle kick that instead completely connected with Jesus Angulo and knocked him out. The referee red carded him as Angulo needed the medical attention. Pumas continued to pressure in the final minutes while Atlas defended for dear life. In the end they held on, but the controversial way in ended really left a sour taste for most non Atlas fans.

Atlas will go to the Liga MX final for the first time in the 21st century after getting through Pumas. Although they will close at home, going into the Final with a loss against Pumas might make them not as favored as expected prior to the match. More so was the controversial fashion in which Atlas went through, with a penalty kick not given to Pumas and a red card given to Dinenno for a similar play. Pumas didn’t deserve to win the series in the 180 minutes, but Atlas’ controversial path in both series (against Monterrey, fans felt a penalty kick was also a dubious call in favor of Atlas) might make it that the team is favored by referees, which might make it turn around in the series against Leon. Coach Diego Cocca had the team doing better and seemed more prepared for the match than Pumas’ Coach Andres Lillini. Atlas have a solid defense, but now that the final will not have the regular season tie breaker of the better records, goals need to be scored and the probable injury of Julian Quiñones means that Atlas might come in even weaker in the area that they are more disadvantaged. Still Leon will be facing an Atlas team that will be more inspired than anybody, as Leon is a team that won the Liga MX title last December facing a team that won a Liga MX title 70 years ago. There is no doubt it will be historic any way you watch it.