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Pumas bounce back and qualify to the semifinals

The universitarios bounced back from a 1-0 loss in the first leg to get a 3-0 victory over Chivas to win their quarter final series.

Pumas UNAM v Chivas - Playoffs Torneo Apertura 2023 Liga MX Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images

Pumas gave a great performance en route to getting a 3-0 victory on Sunday over Chivas to book their ticket to the semifinals of the Apertura 2023. After a 1-0 loss in the first leg, this time it was Pumas who dominated Chivas to get the victory that got them the ticket off a 3-1 aggregate. The home side played a great match and will now face a very tough hurdle in Tigres, who are not only the current champions, but will now have the benefit of owning the tiebreaker in case of an aggregate tie (Pumas had the tie breaker in this series against Chivas).

The match started with Robert Ergas taking the place of struggling Gustavo del Prete in the starting 11. A cross by Ergas almost got deflected into the path of Gabriel Fernandez in the area, but Chivas’ goalkeeper Miguel Jimenez got to the ball before that happened. Erick Gutierrez got off a left-footed shot that almost got deflected in, but went just wide. Then, after being allowed time, Ergas got off a great cross that Cesar Huerta tried to volley, but it was Antonio Briseño who connected with it, getting past Jimenez and into the net to score and give Pumas the 1-0 lead. The goal and lead meant that Pumas were now the team going through to the semifinals because of the tiebreaker.

A great cross by Jesus Rivas was misjudged by Alan Mozo and the ball fell to Ergas. To make matters worse for Chivas, Mozo then tripped Ergas and the ref correctly gave Pumas the PK. Cesar Huerta placed a right-footed shot past Jimenez to give Pumas the 2-0 lead. Twenty minutes into the match, Pumas were now able to manage the match with their lead. They took advantage of the momentum hit for Chivas and took control of possession. Huerta got into the area and got tripped, but the ref not only didn’t give a PK, but booked Huerta. There was a somewhat controversial play when Ricardo Marin got into the area and looked to have been crushed by both Nathan and Adrian Aldrete, but nothing was called. Replays showed that there might have been a foul, but also that Marin had handled the ball before getting to the area. It would be the last play and Pumas took a deserved lead that had them moving on at the moment.

The second half started with Chivas subbing out Isaac Brizuela for Alexis Vega, who immediately got involved with a shot that went just wide. It seemed Chivas were bouncing back helped by Vega’s substitution. After a run, Marin got injured and had to leave the match. Yael Padilla replaced him. Pumas went on an incredible counter attack in which Eduardo Salvio made a great run and served Gabriel Fernandez, who got past Cristian Calderon and fired the ball past Jimenez for the commanding 3-0 lead. It appeared to be the killer goal that put things out of reach for El Rebaño. Chivas subbed out Ruben Gonzalez, Alan Mozo and Erick Gutierrez for Ronaldo Cisneros, Jesus Sanchez and Jose Juan Macias, playing in his first match since 2022. Pumas subbed out Gabriel Fernandez and Robert Ergas for Juan Ignacio Dinenno and Carlos Gutierrez. Although Chivas tried to fight back, they looked out of it, as that third goal had wrapped things up for Pumas.

Mohamed’s squad qualified to the semifinals off the back of a great performance. After a very disappointing match in the first leg in which Chivas dominated, Pumas had a totally different performance and dominated a Chivas team who never came back after going down 2-0 just twenty minutes into the match. It was also a key match for Cesar Huerta, who although has had an incredible season, hadn’t been great against his previous team. Chivas’ fans had really piled onto him for his lack of success in Chivas, especially after the lackluster first leg in which Alan Mozo kept him in check. This time though, Huerta won the battle and even had a shirt made with the slogan “Re Hecho en CU” (Remade in CU). This was a homage to current NT coach Jaime Lozano’s famous “Hecho en CU” (Made in CU) shirt from the 2004 title winning season, when the Pumas made player paid homage to the club’s home, Ciudad Universitaria. With the shirt, Huerta meant that although he had come from Chivas, it was Pumas who had remade him into the player he is now.

Pumas will have a very tough task in the semifinals as they face Tigres. Not only are they the current champions, but Pumas have struggled mightily against them, especially on the road. Tigres also hold the tiebreaker, meaning if the series ends in an aggregate tie, it would be Tigres who qualify to the final. Still, Pumas have bounced back and coach Antonio Mohamed could be experienced enough to have the team prepared for a good showing as they fight to return to the final for the first time since the Apertura 2020.