Monday Musings: Clásico double-header disappoints

Facundo Barceló of Atlas reacts to a missed opportunity during the Clásico Tapatío. (Photo by Refugio Ruiz/Getty Images)
Facundo Barceló of Atlas reacts to a missed opportunity during the Clásico Tapatío. (Photo by Refugio Ruiz/Getty Images) /

The back-to-back Clásicos on Saturday night did not live up the promise of spectacular fútbol.

Matchday 9 had the Clásico Tapatío and the Clásico Capitalino on offer, promising four hours of scintillating soccer for Liga MX fans on Saturday night. Alas, both games fell short. Instead, the weekend’s final curtain – Pachuca at Santos – proved to be the most entertaining game of the weekend.

Although you can’t criticize either Clásico for lacking in intensity, neither game rose to the level of an Instant Classic (unless you consider Alexis “Pompitas” Vega’s odd goal celebration to be worthy of celebration).

Only one team showed up for Clásico Tapatío

Atlas coach Leandro Cufre did not have his team ready to play at Estadio Akron and there is little excuse for the poor performance. Two starters – right back Ismael Govea and midfielder Jairo Torres – did have international duty with Mexico’s U-22 team during the FIFA break, but fatigue did not seem to be the issue, concentration did.

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The Zorros were erratic (77% passing rate) and indecisive, they were also heavy with the touch (lots of unforced turnovers), although they were mostly steady on defense (each team only had 3 shots on goal). The 0-1 Clásico result was the first time Atlas had been blanked all season, the only Liga MX team that had not been shut out through Matchday 8.

The Chivas flowed well offensively and looked dangerous going forward but were inefficient in their offensive third (15 shots in all, but only 3 on target). If not for a bit of brilliance from Vega (a bit of separation from Govea at the top of the box was all he needed to blast a shot over goalie Camilo Vargas and into the top right corner of the net).

The goal just after the hour mark saved coach Tomás Boy’s job for another week and the performance in the Clásico was their second straight satisfying showing (another point in Boy’s column).

Clásico Capitalino was all pomp, no circumstance

América midfielder Sebastián Córdova was red-carded in minute 17, but UNAM appeared to be the team playing short-handed for most of this match. Statistically, the Pumas dominated – 64% possession; much better passing accuracy (84% to 69%) – but the Aguilas appeared closer to scoring throughout the game.

Clásico disappointment
Goalie Memo Ochoa and his América mates had a great chance to collect all three points despite playing a man down for 73 minutes. (Photo by Mauricio Salas/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

And indeed, América did score first. New signing Federico Viñas scored less than 30 seconds after making his debut. He collected a pass near the half-moon from fellow sub Gio dos Santos and – under pressure – fed fullback Jorge Sánchez as he raced into the box. Sánchez trapped and bounced a square pass into the path of Viñas who had eluded his marker and the 21-year-old Uruguayan thumped the ball home from close range.

Viñas’ goal marked the second time this season that an Aguila scored on his debut: academy product José Angel López scored minutes after coming on against Pachuca in their previous match.

Clásico disappointment
Bryan Mendoza, left, celebrates his equalizer which came with only 10 minutes remaining in the Clásico Capitalino. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images) /

For their part, the Pumas seemed to be playing without a sense of urgency. They did not effectively press the man advantage, probing tentatively and wary of América’s counter-attacking skill. Coach Miguel González was growing increasingly frustrated as the game wore on, agonizing missed opportunities and exhorting his team to push forward.

An error by Aguilas keeper Memo Ochoa allowed the Pumas to tie the game only 2 minutes after Viñas had opened the scoring. Bryan Mendoza gathered in a clearance off a corner kick and let fly from 22 meters. To be fair, Ochoa’s view was obstructed by teammates rushing out to block the shot, but he was slow to react and the ball skidded under his elbow, knotting the score in minute 80.

Odds and Ends

The Santos-Pachuca match was an end-to-end thriller with the home team clawing their way back from a very early 2-0 deficit to earn a tie. The penalty call that resulted in the equalizer was quite soft, but Pachuca defender Kevin Alvarez was careless (as he contested a corner kick, he clearly hindered Ulises Rivas as the Santos midfielder rose to try and reach the cross). The call was confirmed after a consultation with video replay, but I will emphasize that it was a soft call. … The Tigres now have five straight ties and extended their league-high undefeated streak to 7 games. … Morelia is 3-1-0 since firing Javier Torrente.