Atlas and Pumas fought to a spirited scoreless tie in Guadalajara on Sunday night. Last season’s champions Atlas were favored and had the better opportunities against the team they beat in last season’s semifinal, but Pumas stood toe to toe at times and the result seems to be a fair one. Pumas now returns to Mexico City where they will have a tough return leg in the CONCACAF Champions League against Saprissa, while Atlas is set to travel to Tijuana for a match on Friday against Xolos.
The first half started with Pumas going back to the Juan Ignacio Dinenno and Jose Rogerio forward line, while Atlas went out with their best starting lineup. Atlas had a good chance when a cross into the area was volleyed by Julio Furch, but his shot went wide. Then after a harsh foul on Edgar Zaldivar, Higor Meritao was given a yellow card. Replays showed the foul was done by Zaldivar and the referee reversed the decision, taking the card off Meritao and giving it to Zaldivar. After a cross by Sebastian Saucedo was headed by Dinenno, Atlas’ goalkeeper Camilo Vargas had to make a great save. Atlas responded off of a free kick when Julian Quiñones got a wide open header, but Pumas’ goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera made a great save. Atlas subbed out Diego Barbosa for Javier Abella in a surprising first half substitution, most likely because of an injury. Quiñones got off a right footed shot that Talavera saved. The game became very even, with both teams trading possession and neither team getting chances. In the end the halftime whistle blew and the scoreless tie continued.
The second half started with both teams hoping to improve and get a goal. Atlas came close to scoring when a free kick taken by Luis Reyes bounced around in the area after deflecting off Rogerio, but no Atlas player was there to score on the rebound. Reyes came close again when a shot from him went past Talavera, but Nicolas Freire was able to clear the ball. Atlas subbed out Edgar Zaldivar for Jeremy Marquez. Atlas had a great chance when Furch got past Nicolas Freire and then went on a possible two-on-two, but his pass went right to the only other Pumas defender. Freire looked to have been injured in the play, and was subbed out for Jesus Rivas. Pumas also subbed out Sebastian Saucedo for Diogo de Oliveira. After a free kick, Gaddi Aguirre got a free header but it hit the post, although he would have been offside had it gone in. A shot from Dinenno from outside the area was bobbled by Vargas and fell to Jeronimo Rodriguez, but his shot was blocked by Vargas, who brought down Rodriguez too. Jose Rogerio was subbed out for Omar Islas, while Atlas subbed out Luis Reyes and Jario Torres for Jonathan Herrera and Christopher Torres. A cross by Abella almost turned into a shot after Talavera misjudged it, having to clear it with a save before Furch could score. From outside the area, Meritao got off a left footed shot that forced Vargas to make a save. Pumas subbed out Juan Ignacio Dinenno and Leonel Lopez for Washington Corozo and Santiago Trigos, who made his Liga MX debut. The teams continued to have opportunities, but neither was able to break through. There were no dangerous chances in the last minutes, as the scoreless tie finished as the final result.
Atlas and Pumas gave a good performance overall, although but fans might be frustrated and the lack of scoring in the match. Atlas might rue the fact that they tied at home and that because of other results, they drop all the way from second to fifth. For Pumas, it’s a better result as not only did they get an away tie against the Liga MX champions, but they climb to sixth place. Now they seem set to return home to face two very important matches as they face Saprissa in the return leg of their Round of 16 series in the CCL and then face their biggest rival in America. The America match gains importance as America lost at home to Pachuca, and are in full blown crisis after losing on Wednesday against Mazatlan and dropping to 16th place out of 18 teams. Pumas will get a boost from the tie, although they will have a tough job in both matches. Atlas will have to travel to Tijuana and although it’s a frustrating result, they are still undefeated in the tournament and they were slightly the better team on Sunday. If they get a good result against Tijuana, they can be back on track and they are just one point away from the second through fourth placed teams. It seems both teams are looking solid so far, and both look poised to get back into the post season at the end of the tournament.