What was expected to be a taut, low-scoring affair, turned into a thrilling shoot-out at Estadio Victoria in Aguascalientes.
The Chivas entered Saturday night’s contest against Necaxa with goal-scoring troubles – a scoreless draw against Veracruz last week and a 1-0 loss to Santos in Matchday 4. Necaxa was coming off a 3-1 bashing midweek at the hands of Club America in a Copa MX match.
Chivas starting 11
Necaxa starting 11
Chivas fans wondered that as coach Joe Cardozo’s seat has gotten hotter if his tactics would change.
The result was an early contender for game of the season, mixed with late-game drama, penalties and players facing old teams. Necaxa forward Angel Sepulveda was facing his old team, while Dieter Villalpando and Miguel Ponce took on their old club, Necaxa.
More from Viva Liga MX
- Guillermo Ochoa is out 4-6 weeks
- The Clásico Regiomontano is Heating Up
- Pumas: In Search of Regaining a Top Spot
- Why the United States Is Set to Overtake Mexico on the World Stage
- Erick Gutierrez is out once again
The game came into its own in the first five minutes as Chivas tormented Necaxa’s back line with explosive runs by Chivas forwards Alexis Vega and Alan Pulido, covering every inch of the field and testing Necaxa goalkeeper Hugo Gonzales whenever the occasion arose. Pulido nearly put away a header in the 8th minute but it was saved by a Necaxa defender jumping in the way. The Chivas looked quite dangerous.
The pressure was getting to Necaxa and after a careless foul (by Necaxa defender Ventura Alvarado), the Chivas maintained possession and Vega sent a cross into the area where a Necaxa defender with the most perfect form met the ball with his head. Unfortunately for Rayos captain Alvarado, his effort to clear the cross sent it right past his keeper for an own goal.
Things didn’t look good for Necaxa entering the second half, but Argentine forward Brian Fernandez took on the Chivas defense, making runs where space afforded. In minute 51, he played a 1-2 into the box and the return pass gave him space to take a shot. Chivas keeper Raul Gudiño flew left where the ball was headed, but it bounced off defender Jair Perreira and flew into the goal. Ten minutes later, Brian Fernandez split two defenders on the right flank, sending old teammate Ponce to the turf, cut into the box and dribbled inside past a third defender, before rifling home a left-footed blast into the short side. Gudiño never had a chance and Necaxa led 2-1.
The match retreated into a back-and-forth flow, but then got dramatic in minute 74. PENALTY against the Chivas. Peirera had leaped to block a cross but got his arm up. Former Chivas player Sepulveda stepped up to push the lead to 3-1 … but he missed, dreadfully, poking a weak shot right down the middle that Gudiño had no issue scooping up.
The Chivas still had life, and they began scrambling to find an equalizer. Sub Walter Gael Sandoval got deep down the right flank and sent a weak cross low into the box. Defender Alvarado went to cut it off, but slipped and fell, and as he did he handled the ball. Sepulveda told keeper Gonzalez that Pulido would go left, but he buries a strong shot straight down the middle, and the score is now 2-2.
The Chivas had momentum now and were going full attack, a tactic rarely seen under Cardozo. After a foul, the Chivas start play quickly and get down the right flank again. Pulido cut inside and dropped a pass to sub Luis Madrigal at the penalty spot, but his shot was blocked by a defender. The ball bounded to the left and another sub, Ronaldo Cisneros, swooped in and beat Gonzalez, giving the Chivas a 3-2 lead as the game clock struck 89. The Univision announcers had been calling Necaxa’s Fernandez the player of the match, but now they were switching their votes to Cisneros.
The Chivas have all but ended their two-game winless streak, but Necaxa was granted a free kick way out on the right. Naturally, Brian Fernandez steps up to take it, lofting a perfect cross to defender Carlos Guzman in the box and he headed it back across his body in a high arc over the outstretched arms of the 6’5″ Gudiño and under the crossbar next to the opposite post. Just like Jared Borghetti’s goal against Italy in the 2002 World Cup. The game was knotted at 3-3.
Player of The Match
Necaxa’s Brian Fernandez with 2 goals and 1 assist.
The Chivas worked hard on the counter but Brian Fernandez worked harder. His platinum blonde hair could be seen streaking down the sidelines wherever there was space and he exposed the Chivas’ back line’s weaknesses, especially Miguel Ponce at left back, who was on more than one occasion left looking like he had his shoes on the wrong feet.