The No. 7 seed Dorados failed to take advantage of home field and settled for a scoreless draw against No. 2 Zacatecas in their Ascenso MX quarterfinal.
The Ascenso MX playoffs kicked off with two quarterfinal matches Wednesday night and Diego Maradona’s hard-charging Dorados of Sinaloa squandered a good chance to put pressure on the favored Mineros of Zacatecas.
After an insipid first half in which the visitors dominated possession but failed to create scoring opportunities, coach Maradona made two changes to start the second half. Midfielder Daniel Juárez and striker Juan Galindrez were sent on to ignite the offense and they did just that, as the Dorados forced three big-time saves from Mineros goalie Sebastián Fassi in the first 20 minutes of the second half.
Less than 10 minutes in, Edson Rivera soared to meet a corner kick and his header was parried aside by a lunging Fassi. In quick succession, Vinicio Angulo and Galindrez saw their shots denied but Galindrez was to get other opportunities.
In minute 75, Fernando Arce, Jr. – who played well in midfield for Sinaloa – hit Galindrez in stride and the 24-year-old Colombian dribbled into the top corner of the box only to fire just over the crossbar.
The Dorados continued pressing forward as Zacatecas was content to rely on fouls to short-circuit the Sinaloa attack and ref Edgar Rangel did nothing to discourage the strategy, infuriating Maradona who screamed at the ref throughout the second half.
In minute 81, Zacatecas scooped up a loose ball and countered swiftly. League-leading scorer Roberto Nurse raced to the front of the net but was short-hopped by the centering pass and he sprayed his volley wide.
Just two minutes later, Galindrez was given a shot at glory and he bungled it badly. Sub Antonio Rentería slipped a loose ball to the left of net as Galindrez eluded his marker and ran toward the back post. Jesús Chávez chased down the ball and chipped it over the goalie but Galindrez somehow managed to head wide of the empty net from 5 meters out.
With Dorados heads still hanging, Zacatecas broke out on a 5-on-1 fast break but Sergio Vergara’s shot went wide of the post.
At the final whistle, Maradona confronted ref Rangel at midfield, gesturing wildly while screaming at him until his assistant Luis Islas pulled him away to avoid another potential fine. Diego’s actions after the previous Dorados match – a 1-1 draw with Atlético San Luis in which a Sinaloa player was red-carded – are under investigation after the Referees Commission filed a complaint with league officials.
All in all, the game, was rather poorly played but the ESPN coverage was enhanced by the use of a “Diego cam” that was often displayed as an inset onscreen. The Argentine sat on the bench and nervously chewed on his fingernails during the first half, but was much more animated on the sideline in the second half.
The result was a disappointment for the underdog Dorados who soared up the standings after Maradona took over the reins in mid-September. Sinaloa had a 5-game win streak late in the season to qualify for the playoffs. The tie with San Luis last weekend not only ended their streak but spoiled their chance to finish as high as fifth. It also resulted in the one-game suspension of their top striker, Jorge Córdoba, who is eligible to return for the second leg of the quarterfinal series.
The two teams square off in the second leg of their quarterfinal in Zacatecas on Saturday.
In other Ascenso MX action, top-seeded FC Juárez got a 74th-minute goal from striker Leandro Carrijo to earn the Bravos a 1-1 tie in the first leg of their quarterfinal match with the Leones Negros in Estadio Jalisco. Carlos Baltazar had put the No. 8 seed Leones Negros on top in minute 49 with a 25-meter laser that creased the back of the net after skimming under the crossbar.