Pumas ended the regular season on a high note after defeating Chivas by a 1-0 score that gave them a 4th place finish and sent El Rebaño down to 5th. The result guaranteed that these teams would play each other in the Liguilla, being the only confirmed series before yesterday’s games. Because of the victory, not only do Pumas get home field advantage, but also the tie-breaker when the Liguilla starts in two weeks after the FIFA int’l break and the play-in round gets played.
In front of a sold out crowd, the match started with both teams coming out with solid lineups. After Gabriel Fernandez got the ball and went into the area, he made a great pass into the path of Cesar Huerta, but his sliding shot was saved by a sliding tackle from Alan Mozo. Off a free kick, Adrian Aldrete got off a great cross that found Nathan Da Silva, who volleyed the ball and forced Chivas’ Miguel Jimenez to make a great save. After a great attack, Eduardo Salvio got a cross into the area that was blocked by a header by Raul Martinez, but left there for Gabriel Fernandez, who got off an incredibly strong right-footed shot that went past Jimenez and into the net to give Pumas the 1-0 lead. It was a bad mistake by Martinez, but a great kick by Fernandez to strike first.
While Pumas had dominated the match, Chivas got more possession after the goal and Pumas seemed to start sitting back as they lowered the intensity. Yael Padilla won the ball in the area and got a good chance, but his pass towards Isaac Brizuela was blocked by Nathan and cleared. Off a corner, Salvio got off a cross that was headed by Fernandez from close range, but it hit the post, saving Chivas. Huerta made an incredible play when he got off a great lob from outside the area that would have gone in if not for Jimenez’s great save. A great counter could have ended in a goal, but Jesus Rivas’s shot was deflected right to Jimenez. The halftime whistle blew and after a very entertaining first half, Pumas took the lead to the dressing room.
Into the second half, Ulises Rivas got a wide open header that went wide off a free kick. Chivas subbed out Yael Padilla and Victor Guzman for Erick Gutierrez and a returning Alexis Vega after being suspended by the team for off the field behavior. After a great combination play, Cristian Calderon got off a left-footed shot that went close, but wide. Chivas got a free kick just outside the area that Vega took and looked to be deflected by the wall, but upon further review, it looked like Salvio had deflected the ball with his arm and it had been a handball. The ref would go to VAR and give Chivas a PK. Incredibly, Alexis Vega would be the one to step up and take it, even after being out of action for weeks until the match. His attempt was saved by Julio Gonzalez on what was a great stop to save Pumas and continue the rough patch Vega is going through.
After a clearance, Calderon and Gutierrez got into a scuffle that was stopped before it turned into a fight. A cross into the area was headed by Ricardo Marin, but Gonzalez would punch it clear before Cisneros got to the ball. Vega would get off a shot from outside the area that went wide. Huerta would get to the area and get off a low left-footed shot that would force Jimenez to make another save. It would be the last chance for both teams as Pumas held on to get the victory.
Pumas battled it out, but got a great victory to end a great regular season. With few people expecting Pumas to get directly to the Liguilla avoiding the play-in round, Pumas not only did qualify directly, but achieved a fourth place finish on the way. By defeating Chivas and dropping them to fifth place, this means this will be the first of three consecutive matches between the teams, which paints a positive picture after such a well played match. Pumas were the deserved winners, although Chivas did a good job too and could have tied if not for the Vega debacle. Chivas will need to see what happens with Vega, who was once the best player on the team, but now appears to be in a toxic spiral with fans almost unanimously turning against him. Both teams will now prepare for a long time out as we wait two weeks for the liguilla to start after the FIFA break and the week for the play-in round between the 7th to 10th placed teams.