Pumas made it two for two under new coach Antonio Mohamed as they defeated Toluca by a 3-1 score, placing them into the Repechaje zone. In Pumas’ last home game of the season, an early goal and a good defensive display helped them get a very good performance from the team that places them in contention to make the playoffs as a Repechaje team. Pumas will now close out the season with two very tough away games, first against big rivals America and then against first placed Monterrey.
The first half started with Pumas having the return of Gustavo del Prete to the starting XI, as they hoped to be on the front foot offensively in a key match. A minute into the match, Pumas got a corner kick and made a second play that totally fooled Toluca. Choosing to get a pass instead of a cross to Pablo Bennevendo, he was allowed all the time to get a great cross into the area that was brilliantly headed by Juan Ignacio Dinenno past Toluca’s goalkeeper Thiago Volpi and into the net for the 1-0 lead. Pumas had an early advantage and a great start to the match. A cross into the area then found a wide open Marcel Ruiz, but his header went wide. A long ball into the area almost found Edgar Lopez as he clashed into Pumas’ goalkeeper Julio Gonzalez, who bobbled the ball but was able to get it before Lopez could get off a shot. Toluca then had a great chance when Maximiliano Araujo got past two Pumas’ defenders and got a low cross that just was out of reach of Ruiz, who would have placed it into the empty net had he connected. While Toluca had more possession, Pumas was well placed on the field and held them in check. A cross into the area had Carlos Gonzalez rise to get a header, forcing Julio Gonzalez to make a great save. After the play, the referee was called by VAR after replays showed that Arturo Ortiz had deflected the ball with his hand after Gonzalez had headed the ball. The referee gave a penalty kick to Toluca, and former Pumas forward Carlos Gonzalez stepped up to take the penalty. Although his right footed shot was handled by Julio Gonzalez, he couldn’t stop the ball from going past his hand and into the net for the tying goal that placed the match at 1-1. A free kick from Eduardo Salvio then went just wide. Later, Jean Meneses got into the area but his shot went right to Gonzalez’s hands. Then Cesar Huerta went past two Toluca defenders and then got a great right footed shot past Volpi, scoring a wonderful goal to give Pumas the 2-1 lead. This was Huerta’s second consecutive goal scoring a goal, and this was even better than the very good one he scored the previous Sunday against Atletico San Luis. Pumas looked to have a chance but Dinenno’s shot was blocked by a sliding tackle from a Toluca defender. A long ball into the area found Huerta, who was then brought down by Brian Garcia, and a penalty kick was given to Pumas. Eduardo Salvio stepped up to take the PK and his right footed shot through the middle went past Volpi and into the net for a goal that gave Pumas the 3-1 lead. From outside the area, Jose Luis Caicedo would get a shot that went just wide. The first half ended and after a great performance from Pumas, they took a good lead into the halftime break.
The second half started with Toluca subbing out Jesus Venegas and Brayan Angulo for Carlos Orrantia and Camilo Sanvezzo. Dinenno got into the area early in the half, but his right footed shot was saved by Volpi. Toluca then subbed out Brian Garcia for Leonardo Fernandez in the 54th minute. A minute later Jean Meneses made a harsh tackle on Del Prete that looked to have injured him and earned a yellow card. Del Prete was then subbed out for Jesus Molina. Then in the 60th minute, Meneses made another harsh foul on Freire. VAR called on the referee after replays showed that it was a bad tackle from Meneses, and he was red carded, leaving Toluca with 10 players. Pumas subbed out Ulises Rivas for Jorge Ruvalcaba. A long ball into the area almost bounced over Gonzalez, but he was able to stay with the ball and make the stop. Ruvalcaba got into the area but his right footed shot went wide. Another long ball to Ruvalcaba was just out of reach for a one-on-one, and Volpi cleared it. The red card seemed to have killed the match for Toluca, although the advantage wasn’t giving Pumas any more offensive chances. In the 84th minute, Pumas subbed out Juan Ignacio Dinenno and Eduardo Salvio for Diogo de Olivera and Higor Meritao. Toluca meanwhile subbed out Marcel Ruiz and Edgar Lopez for Jorge Rodriguez and Alan Rodriguez. Sanvezzo then got into the area, but his right footed shot was saved by Gonzalez. On the ensuing corner kick, Gonzalez punched the ball out before a Toluca player could get a close range header. Off of a counter attack, Meritao got into the area but his right footed shot was saved by Volpi. Pumas was able to hold on and get a very important and deserved win.
So far, Pumas has made great improvements during the short tenure of Mohamed. The teams looks a lot better than they did under the disastrous run of Rafael Puente, Jr. and it seems that the main problem for them getting to the post season is the lack of time that the new coach has after they held on to Puente. A lot of players have improved, and Pumas looks to be at clearly their best level of the season. Still they have a very tough ending to the season as they face their biggest rivals America and then first placed Monterrey, both away matches. Still Pumas is a win away from getting to the Repechaje, but it won’t be easy as they hope they have improved enough to not run out of time.