Celaya wins to fill out Round of 16 bracket

Guadalajara's César Huerta (left) chases David Andrade during the Santos-Chivas Group 7 match won by the Guerreros 2-0. (Photo by Armando Marin/Jam Media/Getty Images)
Guadalajara's César Huerta (left) chases David Andrade during the Santos-Chivas Group 7 match won by the Guerreros 2-0. (Photo by Armando Marin/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

Necaxa has reason to regret absence of video replay in Cup as Toros become fourth Ascenso MX team to qualify for knockout stage.

Michelle Benítez scored on a header to help Celaya defeat visiting Necaxa and claim the final spot in the Copa MX Round of 16. Benítez – on-loan to second division Celaya from the Chivas – came on in the second half to notch the winner.

The Group 6 match was the only game of the three on Wednesday’s Copa MX schedule that could have impacted the participants in the knockout stage. Veracruz was holding the 16th spot after a 1-1 tie in Oaxaca on Tuesday night gave the Tiburones 4 points from their four group stage games.

Visiting Necaxa (2 points) and Celaya (1 point) each knew they could surpass Veracruz with a win. The Rayos appeared to take a lead in minute 25 when Eduardo Herrera poked home a rebound, but the goal was waved off for offside. Replay showed Herrera was on side by more than a meter, but since the Copa MX does not allow video replay, Necaxa’s objections fell on deaf ears.

A few minutes after Benítez had given the host Toros the lead, Necaxa’s Maxi Salas rose for a header in the box and moments after making contact with the ball, Celaya goalie Miguel Nuñez crashed into him. A clear penalty, but ref Edgar Morales – who was no more than 12 meters away – did not make the call. Video replays suggested a penalty should have been called.

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As it was, Necaxa might feel aggrieved, but the Rayos did not merit advancing to the Round of 16. Coach Memo Vázquez has never prioritized the Cup and his line-up selections left a lot to be desired. This season’s Copa performance did Necaxa little to no good and leave Vázquez – and Necaxa management – open to criticism. The academy products lined up alongside second-choice players and no tactical style was evident in any of the Rayos’ four Cup games. Instead of trying to indoctrinate the youngsters into the playing style used on the senior team and afford them the benefit of working with a veteran starter or two, these games were little more than a disorganized run in the park.

In Pachuca, visiting Atlas and the Tuzos played to a 1-1 tie allowing the latter to hold onto the first place in Group 9. Pachuca finished the group stage with 10 points, snaring a top 8 seed. The Tuzos were also lucky that Video Assistant Replay is not available in the Copa MX.

Copa MX brackets set
Pachuca players mob Gustavo Cabral after he scored the equalizer against Atlas in Group 9 match. (Photo by Jam Media/Getty Images) /

Late in the first half, Tuzos forward Edwin Cardona got miffed when Edson Rivera stole the ball from him and he took a vicious chop at Rivera’s right leg. The Atlas player went down in a heap and was eventually carted off the field and subbed out. Video replay would have resulted in a red card for Cardona and the Tuzos would have had to play with 10 men for the entire second half.

The final match of the group stage saw host Santos upend the Chivas 2-0, taking the top spot in Group 7 as a result. Both teams had already clinched spots in the Copa knockout stage so the result only determined the final seeding in the Round of 16.

Santos’ victory boosted them up from a bottom three seed all the way up to the No. 9 seed where they will face UNAM in the Round of 16 beginning in late January. The Chivas finished with the No. 12 seed and they’ll match up with Ascenso MX club Sinaloa. The Dorados are the highest-seeded of the four Ascenso MX teams to reach the knockout stage. The other three second-division franchises still chasing the Cup are the Venados of Mérida (10th seed), the 14th-seeded Cafetaleros of Tapachula (Chiapas) and Celaya (16th seed).

Copa MX brackets set

The Round of 16 match-ups will be played in a home-and-home basis, with the away goals rule. The lower seed hosts the first leg while the higher seed hosts the second leg. Monterrey, Toluca and Morelia finished the Copa group stage with a perfect 4 wins from 4 games.

No. 1 Monterrey vs No. 16 Celaya

No. 2 Toluca vs. No. 15 Atlas

No. 3 Morelia vs No. 14 Cafetaleros

No. 4 FC Juárez vs. No. 13 Querétaro

No. 5 Sinaloa vs. No. 12 Chivas

No. 6 Tijuana vs. No. 11 Atlético San Luis

No. 7 Pachuca vs. No. 19 Mérida

No. 8 Pumas vs. No. 9 Santos Laguna