It is still too early to make a bunch of judgments on the early phase of the season. But with three of the 17 league games played, it is enough to get an idea as to the kind of work that each team needs to do, or is capable of doing. In Jornada 3, there was not only a Clasico Capitalino at the top of the table, but there were two other matches involving teams unbeaten into the round. One team picked up its first win, while the relegation race looks like it might shape up to be a race to the bottom.
What were the big stories from the third round of Liga MX (and Ascenso MX) action? We narrate you through the stories you need to know.
— Fut Mex Nation (@FutMexNation) January 22, 2018
— Fut Mex Nation (@FutMexNation) January 22, 2018
0-0 Draws Were in Style both in Mexico City and outside the Capital.
Every match between unbeaten teams in Liga MX this weekend resulted in a goalless draw. That did not mean that every match was necessarily the same, nor were the matches necessarily devoid of compelling football and goalscoring chances.
In the Clasico Capitalino, one would be surprised to have seen a 0-0 scoreline given the chances created by both sides, especially for Pumas. Despite accumulating superior passing stats and forcing Alfredo Saldivar to account for more shots than their own goalkeeper, Augustin Marchesin, Pumas’s midfield overwhelmed the Aguilas‘ defense helped to make good chances for strikers Matias Alustiza and Nicolas Castillo, that both strikers seemed to waste.
At the BBVA Bancomer Stadium in Guadelupe, Aviles Hurtado’s missed penalty summed up how the Rayados failed to turn a small advantage in possessing and passing into chances that were finished. But both teams had featured rotational sides which included the debuts of new players, especially Jonathan Urretaviscaya for the hosts.
At the Azul Stadium, it was one-way traffic to William Yarbrough’s goal. Caixinha’s instructions to defensive and midfield players to join the attack more seemed to have helped the home side create a barrage of chances that the Aguascalientes-born USA arquero had to parry away.
And at La Corregidora, a Tigres who did not have the services of injured striker Andre-Pierre Gignac found themselves frustrated by Tiago Volpi, who was called into action four times to stop Tigres’ shots, including several from outside the area. The Apertura 2017 champions could not transform a 2:1 advantage in passes completed (at an 88% completion rate) into the kind of goal-scoring effort that could have taken the champions into the top half of the Liga MX table.
Liga MX Relegation Battlers Continue Their Race to the Bottom and it Might Not Matter.
Atlas, Lobos BUAP, and Veracruz remain in a search for their first points of the 2018 Clausura after sizable defeats in Jornada 3. For the Zorros and Lobos, approaches that are foolishly loyal to possession and high pressure led to parallel 3-1 defeats, as tricky, deceptive wingers and playmakers like Keisuke Honda, Rubens Sambueza, and Pablo Barrientos were able to break open the relegation strugglers on Saturday efficiently.
However, the kamikaze approaches both sides have taken look to be things that can be refined. It is generating plenty of chances for both Atlas and BUAP, and as the new players coming in become acclimated to their sides’ play and figure out how to react when they get broken, both teams have a chance to be really dangerous. Regardless of whether their experiments are successful, both are proving that relegation battlers in 2018 in Liga MX are going to be fun to watch.
But neither team is the team currently threatened with relegation from Liga MX. That honor goes to Veracruz, who have not scored a single goal in Liga MX play in 2018, and who looked even less likely to create good chances. While the Red Sharks do have a point to their name, it might not seem like enough to climb out of the drop zone. And against an overhauled Puebla side, the Red Sharks looked second best throughout the match in terms of how effective their play was.
But if Lobos BUAP fail to gain points in their later games, Veracruz could climb out the drop zone without necessarily fixing their own tactical and creative issues.
And even then, as long as Alebrijes de Oaxaca or a promotion ineligible team continues to lead the Ascenso MX table, the relegation battlers do not really have to do anything to change from their approach to guarantee their Liga MX place in 2017-18.
Djaniny and Alejandro Chumacero are powering the surprise starters so far.
Djaniny Tavares’s solitary goal might have given Santos Laguna the points against Morelia, but his league-leading five goals scored have done something else. They have propelled a side on the outside of Liga MX’s relegation battle into third place in the league table–above the undefeated Club America and Xolos.
The Laguneros are not the only surprise story, even though Djaniny represents an obvious protagonist to headline a story that is just fine without Gael Sandoval.
Puebla’s transformation under Enrique ‘Ojitos’ Meza might be more dramatic. La Franja, who are only behind Santos Laguna on goals scored, became a side effective at opening up opponents from the wings. New winger Alejandro Chumacero has been a major part of that. The Veracruz defenders had little answer for the Bolivian’s skill, vision, and ruthlessness in both wide areas and toward the interior of the pitch. And when he did not finish Puebla’s chances (or try to), he made Canadian-Uruguayan striker Lucas Cavallini more effective. Cavallini could evade his markers with more ease than he could in the Apertura. And after scoring his first goal of the Clausura and several other looks on goal, Cavallini knew that his Clausura might just become that much better from a statistic perspective.
In Puebla’s own relegation battle, the news of more effective and ruthless attacks could not have come at a better time, even if the “relegation battle” in the FMF’s top flight proves to not have a loser that gets relegated.
The relegation battle that matters is also a battle to be the “least bad”.
The Liga MX relegation might not happen. But with the Grupo Pachuca-backed Coyotes de Tlaxcala set to begin their Ascenso MX journey in 2018-19, some team will be relegated from Mexico’s second division to Serie A of Liga Premier (the FMF’s third division).
While Venados look to continue their climb away from Ascenso MX, the main contenders for relegation all have points in the Clausura 2018 season. They also have brought in many new players, with an average of at least 9 new players per team (a task that’s easier when teams are taking on offloaded Liga MX players and not electing to negotiate for players on transfer fees).
However, outside of Venados, there have been few success stories from the season’s first three games among the relegation strugglers. They have been littered by efforts that look like sides of misfit toys that often fail to find the target more than they’d like, or innocence in defensive situations. The relegation threatened Murcielagos have conceded an Ascenso MX high of six goals in their 3 league games, other strugglers have conceded only one or two goals fewer (Cimarrones and Tampico Madero respectively).
Chivas finally win a match.
El Rebano picked up their first win of the year on Saturday, January 20–a 3-1 win at Estadio Victoria against Necaxa in Ronaldo Cisneros’s first start for his side.
The former Mexico U-20 international was an effective partner for Alan Pulido and an effective dribbler in advanced areas.
But it was ultimately a team effort, combined with some inopportune lapses in Necaxa’s defending, including the marking by another former Lagunero–Ventura Alvarado–on Cisneros’s goal.
Not all was good news for the Sacred Flock as Alan Pulido came off in the second half with what appeared to be a leg knock. Pulido’s exit came at the break and looked to be precautionary at the time it was made.
Players of the Jornada: Keisuke Honda and Djaniny
Two grandezas with their teams share the honors this week. Djaniny’s efforts to create goalscoring chances and his goal proved to help a surprise team’s win, Keisuke Honda’s creative efforts were more effective to his team’s fortunes against BUAP. SofaScore’s measurement and statistics team gave the two midfielders Team of the Week honors based on what they thought were high rankings for players at their position. The former CSKA Moscow and AC Milan winger recognized the weaknesses in BUAP’s pressure and gaps in their defensive lines and recognition of being broken and exploited them ruthlessly, while Djaniny took matters equally on shots, dribbles, and passing plays. Both players also should be commended for doing what some had expected from their Apertura performances–become the primary protagonists at their teams and be effective for their teams as such.