EDGAR ZUNIGA - Monday, November 5, 2012
Herculez Gomez and Santos remained alive, Francisco Torres witnessed the destruction of Pachuca, all three Yanks saw action with Club Tijuana, and DaMarcus Beasley got another start for Puebla.
Santos 2 - 1 Cruz Azul
On Mexico's fabled Day of the Dead, reigning champions Santos Laguna rose from the dead to crawl back into the playoff picture.
Just when it seemed Santos would be doomed to elimination, they fought back from a goal down to defeat a strong Cruz Azul squad, 2-1.
Herculez Gomez started for Santos, and although he didn't score, he formed part of a trident offense that included Daniel Ludueña and Carlos Darwin Quintero that gave the Cruz Azul defense fits throughout the game.
Both teams came out looking to take the early lead, Santos urged to keep their season alive, while fifth-place Cruz Azul was looking to improve their seeding.
While Santos eventually dominated the flow of play, César Ibáñez ruined the fine defensive effort by his teammates when he tripped Mariano Pavone in the area, and the subsequent penalty was converted by Christian Giménez, beating 'keeper Oswaldo Sanchez for the 1-0 lead.
Despite the penalty, Sanchez made several important saves, keeping his team in the game.
While Santos 'keeper José de Jesús Corona did his best to contain the pressured Santos attack, Ludueña filtered a pass right in the path of Darwin Quintero, who rushed onto Corona and beat him to bring Santos back to life.
Encouraged by the goal, Santos came on with even more pressure, while Cruz Azul looked to maintain ball possession and bleed the clock.
The game kept going back and forth until the 77th minute, when Rodolfo Salinas rose above a throng in the box to head home a corner kick from Ludueña past Corona, sparking a huge celebration in the stands.
Then, it was all Santos as they came crashing down on Cruz Azul, who needed Corona to bail them out numerous times.
In the 83rd minute, Gomez was subbed out in favor of defender Marc Crosas, and Santos was able to hold on and keep their hopes alive.
If the champions want a shot at defending their title, they will have to prove themselves in next week's season finale as they travel to Morelia in a do-or-die match for both squads.
Once again, Benji Joya did not see any action for Santos.
America 4 - 0 Pachuca
Jose Francisco Torres started and played the full 90 but was a nonfactor as his team was clawed to pieces by Club America at Estadio Azteca.
A resurgent Club America would not be denied as they ran roughshod through Pachuca,4-0, elevating them to second place, while effectively eliminating Pachuca from the playoff race.
Christian Benítez started the bloodbath in the 22nd minute when Daniel Montenegro scrambled up the middle and dished off to Benítez, who blasted a golazo past Rodolfo Cota.
That was the score at the half, and Pachuca still entertained some hopes or surviving. However, as time went by, they weren't able to solve the Club America defense, and in the 53rd minute Raúl Jiménez muscled his way past Néstor Vidrio from the right side to go one-on-one with Cota and fired a right-footed shot to the far post to beat him for the 2-0 lead.
In the 81st minute, Vidrio was beat again, this time by Benitez, who added to his goal tally when took a pass from Christian Bermúdez and got past Vidrio to score on Cota with a low shot up the middle.
Benitez completed a hat trick and the destruction of Pahuca in the 88th, when a precise centering pass from Paul Aguilar found him in the box and Benitez rose and headed the shot past Cota.
Already eliminated, Pachuca will finish a disappointing season next week against Jaguares, who will be foaming at the mouth for a good result to sneak into the playoffs.
Club Tijuana 0 - 0 San Luis
Edgar Castillo and Greg Garza both got the start for the Xoloitzcuintles in a mildly entertaining game against lowly San Luis, who battled hard and earned a measure of respect.
Despite the 0-0 result against a meager squad like San Luis, it means that Tijuana remains unbeaten at home this season, and keeps them in first place for now (Toluca has two games in hand).
Fernando Arce came close to scoring early for the Xolos when his blast from outside the area was stopped by 'keeper Óscar Pérez in the 5th minute.
Moments later, Alfredo Moreno came close for Tijuana, when he dribbled into the area, but was unable to fire a shot before the San Luis defense scrambled to aid Perez.
In the 11th minute, Sebastián Fernández was able to get some space near the box and fired on the Tijuana goal, but his shot was deflected.
Tijuana's best opportunity of the first half came when Castillo fooled Perez, who had come out to close down his angle, and passed to Raúl Nava, who wasn't able to shoot, and Arce's subsequent shot went wild.
Joe Corona came on to start the second half, subbing in for Garza, but was unable to help his team break the San Luis backline.
The rest of the match didn't have as many clear chances as these, with neither team seriously threatening to score and they both finally settled for the scoreless draw.
Next week, the Xolos finish out their regular season with a visit to Guadalajara, and hope that San Luis finds a way to defeat visiting Toluca, in order to remain in first place ahead of Club America and Toluca.
Michael Orozco was a no-show for San Luis for the third straight match.
Atlas 2 - 2 Puebla
DaMarcus Beasley is one game away from capping one of the most dismal seasons of his career for one of the most inept teams in Liga MX. This week, however, Puebla took on a team that is even more cursed than them.
It is almost unbelievable to fathom how Atlas went the entire season without winning at home. Alas, the cruelest cut came with how they practically fumbled what was to be their lone home victory in the final seconds of the game.
Atlas scored first and early, giving their fans a fleeting sense of hope when Gregorio Torres fired a superb golazo from about 35 yards out that flew over everyone and out of the reach of Víctor Hugo Hernández who did his best to stop the shot.
Meanwhile, Puebla looked lost on the field and weren't really mounting any sort of threat against Atlas. However, all that changed in the 34th minute, when Facundo Erpen committed an unnecessary foul, tugging down Puebla's Jair García in the penalty area. Matías Alustiza got the call and did not fail in scoring the penalty against Miguel Pinto.
Then, in the 41st minute, Alfonso González gave Atlas a little extra, taking a pass and working his way to the top of the box before unleashing a wicked shot that got past Hernández and the near post.
In the second half, Puebla wilted offensively, while Atlas tried time and time again to increase their lead to no avail.
At the 68th minute, Beasley was subbed out for Edison Toloza, going scoreless once again.
Things seemed to be going well for Atlas, until the 82nd minute, when Sergio Santana was given a straight red card for a vicious foul on Aldo Polo, leaving Atlas with 10 men.
With time running, Atlas made substitutions to solidify their defense and try to preserve what seemed to finally be that much-awaited first home victory of the season.
However, this only served to give Puebla the opportunity to lace together a few passes, nearly tying the game in the 89th minute when Alustiza crashed a shot off the post, keeping Atlas fans on pins and needles.
Finally, in the 94th minute, everything fell apart for Atlas, as they were unable to clear the ball after a Puebla corner kick, and in the confusion Polo found himself alone in front of the Atlas goal and fired a shot into the roof of the net, to the consternation of Atlas players and disbelief of the home crowd.
Based on their reaction, it seemed Puebla had just won the Liga MX. However, the 2-2 final score leaves both teams entrenched near the bottom of the table and far from relevancy in the grand scheme of the league.
Next up for Puebla is their season finale, as they get a visit from last-place Queretaro.