Long shots, scoring streaks and self-inflicted wounds. All were prevalent in Matchday 9 and here are Three Takeaways from the Liga MX weekend.
We are roughly at the halfway point of the 17-game Clausura 2019 season, with one game still pending in Matchday 9.
There have been plenty of pleasant surprises (Angel Mena becoming a star at León after Cruz Azul discarded him; Tijuana and new coach Oscar Pareja perched in 4th place) and already five coaches have been fired.
This past weekend saw lowly Morelia scrape out a tie against América while Guadalajara lost at home thanks to two thumping shots by Dorlan Pabón, each of which came from outside of 25 meters.
But there were other interesting occurrences and here are three of them.
León is for real
We had the Esmeraldas climbing into the top spot of our Power Rankings last week, but the Clausura 2019 just hit the halfway mark so a “wait and see” attitude is still preferable.
That’s because the winter transfer market did not close down until after Matchday 4, so there is still a sense that some teams are just emerging from training camp as new players work to fit in with new teammates.
León started slowly, it seemed, with draws in each of its first two games. But the Tigres tied the Opening Night match on a stoppage time penalty kick and, on Matchday 2, the Esmeraldas scored late in stoppage time to equalize at Monterrey. The following week, León lost at home to Tijuana, finding themselves in 14th place.
Since then, “La Fiera” has won 6 straight matches, most of them in dominating fashion. And the victims were not patsies. León has roughed up several top teams, including Cruz Azul (2-0), América (3-0), UNAM (3-1) and now Santos (3-0).
The Esmeraldas lead the league in goals scored and have allowed the fewest goal. That combination will win you a lot of games.
In retrospect, the two early draws against the two powerhouse Monterrey teams weren’t really that bad, because these two clubs are the only teams ahead of León in the standings.
We have a real scoring race
This weekend was similar to most others during the Clausura 2019. Necaxa’s Brian Fernández and León’s Angel Mena were on the scoresheet.
Mena, the wispy Ecuadorian winger scored his third brace of the season, moving to the top of the scoring charts with 9 goals through 9 games. Right behind him is Necaxa hero Brian Fernández who has now scored in 5 consecutive games to reach 8 for the season.
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Monterrey striker Rogelio Funes Mori trails by a single goal after he got off to a fast start. He was left off the bench in Matchday 8 due to muscle fatigue and he was held scoreless after coming off the bench against Guadalajara on Saturday.
Next with 6 goals is last season’s scoring champion André-Pierre Gignac of the Tigres. The Frenchman scored 14 goals last season to win the crown over Julio Furch of Santos (12 goals).
The highest-ranking Mexican on the goal-scoring list is José Juan Macías. The 19-year-old striker has 5 goals for León. Alan Pulido and Alexis Vega are the next Mexicans on the list, each with 3 goals.
Nothing to say but “D’oh!”
Pachuca defender Stiven Barreiro achieved one of soccer’s rare milestones on Saturday, but it is one he would rather forget.
The 24-year-old Colombian defender recorded two own-goals against the Tigres, becoming only the fourth player in Liga MX history to pull off this ignominious feat. The last player to score twice into his own net was Puebla’s Martin Vazquez back in 1991.
Barreiro – one of three defenders who rotate in the middle of Pachuca’s back line – achieved his newfound notoriety as the answer to a bar trivia question in the span of 8 minutes, putting his team behind the 8-ball just after the half-hour mark.
In minute 24, Enner Valencia got free wide right and fired a low cross into the box. Barreiro was marking André-Pierre Gignac who was racing in toward the back post. The defender slid to block the pass but the ball skipped a bit and clattered off his shin guard into the roof of the net from 5 yards out (pictured at top).
Less than 8 minutes later, the Tigres got deep into the box wide right and Luis Quiñones cut the ball back to Julián Quiñones who was right in front of goal about 8 yards out. Julián made a quick back-heel pass hoping to find a teammate at the back post. But right there was Barreiro and he reflexively stuck out his left boot to block the pass only to send it into the net again.