Liga MX, the league where shocks aren’t really shocks. Chiapas, Pumas, Tijuana and Necaxa all earned surprise wins during jornada 3, but none of these results made big headlines. After all, there’s so much parity in Liga MX that the concept of a shock result barely exists. Here’s a wrap up of the best of the weekend’s action.
Lucas Zelarayán inspires Tigres’ win over América
FutMexNation’s game of the week was the repeat of the Apertura final, Tigres v América. The match didn’t disappoint, with 6 goals, and plenty more great chances created.
Tigres were the better at creating opportunities on the night, and deserved the victory. In fact, it could have been a lot more comfortable, had André-Pierre Gignac and Ismael Sosa not spurned guilt-edged chances.
Man of the match was undoubtedly Lucas Zelarayán. “El Chino” scored 2 golazos, made 4 key passes, completed all of his dribbles, won 10 of his 13 duels and was a source of creativity all evening.
Zelarayán took time to settle into Mexico, and his talents have often been overshadowed by Tigres’ more established names, but the Argentine is starting to build a reputation as one of the best attacking midfielders in Liga MX. If Tigres are to win back-to-back titles, expect “Chino” to play an important role.
Relegation battlers earn tight victories
This season’s relegation battle has the potential to be enthralling throughout the Clausura, with plenty of sides in contention. Two of the most troubled teams, Veracruz and Chiapas, gave their survival hopes a boost with one-nil wins this weekend.
In a fairly even game, it was Leo López’s near-post header that won all three points for Veracruz against Atlas, their second victory of the season. Meanwhile, a sensational free-kick from Jonathan Fabbro was enough to see Los Jaguares shock Toluca.
Huge win for Chiapas in their relegation battle. They've improved defensively, and still play some attractive football. Credit to Bueno.
— Tom Harrison (@tomh_36) January 22, 2017
After their draw against Santos, Morelia are now 3 points adrift of Veracruz at the bottom of the relegation table. The survival race looks set to be contested between Morelia, Veracruz and Chiapas, although Puebla could also find themselves in trouble.
Cruz Azul fight back to draw, but should they have won?
Cruz Azul came back from 2-0 down to earn a point against Monterrey on Saturday, with Nicolás Sánchez’s 93rdminute own goal sealing the comeback. Under usual circumstances, a point from 2-0 down against Monterrey would be considered a positive result, but the game at Estadio Azul was far from usual.
La Máquina enjoyed near-complete domination of the ball, ending with 77% possession. This domination didn’t just take place following the red card to Walter Ayoví either, as Cruz Azul had 75% of the ball during the first-half.
Cruz Azul’s 77% possession led to 19 shots on goal, but disappointingly, only 2 shots on target. Poor finishing could be to blame, but so could an inability to generate clear-cut scoring opportunities.
After scoring just once in their first 2 games this season, and all the misses during last week’s game at Pumas, it’s clear that Cruz Azul need to improve in front of goal if Paco Jémez is to turn around the fortunes of the Mexico City side. Perhaps Martín Cauteruccio, who had a goal wrongly disallowed on Saturday, will be the solution.
Ángel Mena scored his first Cruz Azul goal from the penalty spot on Saturday
Boring Monterrey or a clever tactic?
That's not a bad point for Monterrey. Still, disappointing to see such a stacked squad play with so little ambition. #ligamxeng
— Tom Marshall (@mexicoworldcup) January 22, 2017
With all of Monterrey’s stars, it was disappointing to see Los Rayados play with such a lack of ambition against Cruz Azul. Antonio “Turco” Mohamed set up his side to let Cruz Azul have as much of the ball as possible, frustrate them with a compact defence, and exploit gaps in their defence on the counter. The Argentine even decided to play Walter Ayoví at left-midfield instead of Edwin Cardona and Yimmi Chará, who both possess more of an attacking threat.
The tactic wasn’t particular exciting, but it could be argued that it worked very well. Cruz Azul only had 2 shots on target, despite enjoying 77% possession, and Monterrey were able to break down the La Máquina defence as they scored twice during the first-half. Considering Paco Jémez’s style, perhaps Turco chose the best way of setting up his team.
Sure, Cruz Azul did get back into the game, and equalised late on, but much of this was a result of individual errors, which are out of Turco’s control. A rash challenge from Iván Piris gave away the penalty, Walter Ayoví was sent off for a clumsy piece of play, and Nicolás Sánchez could have avoided turning the ball into his own net.
It isn’t always fun to watch teams play defensive, pragmatic football, but as Necaxa proved in the Apertura, it can be very effective in gaining results. Long-term success is difficult when playing this style, as statistically the team that has more possession is likely to win, but it can be very effective in the short-term or one-off games.
Pumas prove you don’t need a striker to get players into the box
Pumas were given a helping hand by León’s poor form in front of goal, with Carlos “Gullit” Pena particularly guilty of spurning chances on Saturday night. But with more possession and 5 times as many shots on target, it could be argued that Paco Palencia’s side deserved the win. And win they did, thanks to Jesús Gallardo’s 93rdminute winner.
With Nicolás Castillo suspended, Matías Britos not yet fit to start and Santiago Palacios yet to impress in Mexico, Palencia took a big risk in his starting line-up. The Pumas coach decided to play without a formal striker, using Bryan Rabello as a false-9.
With Rabello (no.11) playing as a false-9, on average Pablo Barrera (no.8) was Pumas’ furthest forward player against León
Without a “number 9”, it may have been suspected that Pumas wouldn’t have anyone to move inside the León box, and get on the end of chances. But, as long as you have players that possess intelligent movement, and are willing to work hard, a team can create opportunities without a formal striker.
Pumas created plenty on Saturday, and caused nightmares for the León defence with their fluid movement off the ball, and quick, clever interchanges. There was never a lack of players in the box, with their attacking midfielders regularly making runs from deep or wide areas. After disappointing so far this Clausura, Bryan Rabello, perhaps as a result of having more freedom, looked a completely different player in the false-9 role. It was the Chilean that set up Gallardo’s late winner.
Considering the class of Castillo and Britos, don’t expect to see Pumas play without a formal “number 9” much this season. But seeing Palencia’s side prove that it’s possible to get players in the box and on the end of chances, without a striker, was an interesting lesson to us all.
— Fut Mex Nation (@FutMexNation) January 22, 2017