Chivas outplayed Pumas in route to a 1-0 victory in the first leg of their quarterfinal matchup in the Liguilla. Chivas took advantage of a very defensive Pumas, who gifted Chivas the first 45 minutes and never got into the match. Pumas was also hampered by non-penalty kick call, but should consider themselves lucky they only lost by a single goal. The second leg will be played on Sunday in Mexico City, in which Pumas must win by any score to go through to the semifinals.
The first half started with the surprise of Pumas of coming out with Gabriel Fernandez, even after he had supposedly injured himself warming up for the match, as well as giving another start to struggling Gustavo del Prete. Chivas meanwhile didn’t have any surprises. On the first play of the match, a ball into the area ended with Pumas’ goalkeeper Julio Gonzalez crashing into Ricardo Marin. Marin needed medical attention, but stayed in the match. Later, Marin got off a shot in the area that went just wide. Chivas had total control of the possession, as it was clear that Pumas was going for the tie from the start and sat back, and depended on counter attacks. A cross into the area bounced off of Isaac Brizuela into the path of Ruben Gonzalez, who got off a low footed shot that Julio Gonzalez made a great stop to block it, saving Pumas. A header by Marin could have been deflected by Ruben Gonzalez, but he failed to connect with it and Julio Gonzalez easily made the save. Then off of a great run, Brizuela got the ball into the path of Fernando Beltran but his left footed shot was well saved by Gonzalez. After getting a great pass from Erick Gutierrez, Roberto Alvarado lobbed the ball over Gonzalez, but it wound up hitting the post and saving Pumas once again. Minutes later, after Nathan gave up the ball, Cristian Calderon was able to find Fernando Beltran just outside the area. Beltran was given time and space to get off a great right footed shot that went past Gonzalez and into the net to give Chivas the 1-0 lead. It was a well deserved lead for Chivas, who had been the only team to attack so far in the match. On the next play, Nathan once again lost the ball and allowed Marin to get into the area, but his left footed shot was blocked by Gonzalez. It was a bad decision for Marin, who could have given the ball to a wide open Alvarado, and thus Chivas lost a great opportunity. Pumas then had their first chance of the match when Ulises Rivas got a shot from outside the area, but it went wide. The first half ended with Chivas taking a well deserved lead after an awful first half from Pumas.
The second half started with the surprise that both teams came out with the same starting 11, especially from a Pumas side that should have changed something. After getting the ball in the area, Cesar Huerta got off a shot but it was deflected by a defender into the hands of Chivas’ goalkeeper Miguel Jimenez. Beltran then made a great pass into the path of Gutierrez, who got off a great left footed shot that hit the post. Chivas then got to the rebound, and a great cross into the area was headed from close range by Marin but Gonzalez came up with a great save. Chivas subbed out Isaac Brizuela for Alexis Vega, while Pumas subbed out Rodrigo Lopez for Gustavo del Prete. Del Prete, who has been harshly criticized by fans since arriving at Pumas, added another dreadful performance to his lackluster career with the club. Pumas later subbed out Ulises Rivas for Robert Ergas. A cross into the area was not cleared well and fell into the path of Eduardo Salvio, who got a left footed shot that went wide in what was Pumas’ best chance of the match so far. Off of a corner kick, there was a controversial play when it looked like Marin had handled the ball but nothing was given. Replays showed that the handball happened after Marin had tried to clear the ball with a header but missed. It was harsh, especially after Pumas got called for a penalty in their final regular season match for a very similar play, coincidentally in a match against Chivas. It seemed the referee made a bad mistake, much to Pumas’ detriment. A cross by Huerta in the area was then headed wide by Fernandez. Chivas subbed out Ricardo Marin and Erick Gutierrez for Ronaldo Cisneros and Yael Padilla, while Pumas subbed out Gabriel Fernandez, Santiago Trigos, and Eduardo Salvio for Juan Ignacio Dinenno, Jesus Molina, and Carlos Gutierrez. Off of a counter attack, Vega made a good move and got off a right footed shot that went just wide. Chivas was able to hold on to their lead and get the important victory, although with less advantage than was expected after such a dominating performance.
Chivas got a very deserved victory, although they might kick themselves for only taking a one goal lead into the second leg. Chivas dominated possession for most of the match and had a number of opportunities, but Pumas goalkeeper Julio Gonzalez came up big on Thursday night. Pumas coach Antonio Mohamed had a plan to be defensive from the start and the strategy was terrible for Pumas, who failed to turn things around after going down a goal. Pumas will now need to win the second leg by any score, with a tie giving Chivas the ticket to the semifinal.