Cruz Azul and Toluca Tie in First Leg of CCL Final

concacaf championsCruz Azul’s backup goalkeeper Guillermo Allison entered the starting lineup due to José de Jesús Corona’s three-game suspension and ended up being the man of the match. Both goalkeepers – Allison and Toluca’s Alfredo Talavera – were repeatedly called into action and neither was beaten as the first leg finished 0-0 in the Estadio Azul.

The pouring rain in Mexico City affected the game, as the slick field and ball made the players less inclined to take risks. Even when the rain let up in the second half, the slippery conditions remained a factor.

Nevertheless, both teams attacked when they had the chance. Toluca nearly opened the scoring, but the deflected shot crashed against the crossbar and Allison was able to track it down at the endline. Then Marco Fabián appeared to have scored, fooling a large part of the stadium as well as the Univision Deportes broadcast team, but his curling effort had actually hit the outside of the net.

Both teams had a number of second-half chances as well. For Cruz Azul, Fabián sent a shot wide in the 55th minute and Joao Rojas and Christian Giménez forced Talavera into action with shots in the 76th and 90th minutes. Allison made his share of saves as well and the woodwork played a part again, with one shot clanging off the far post.

There was a touch of controversy in the 82nd minute, when Antonio Ríos’s shot hit Julio César Domínguez’s hand in the box, but referee Roberto García ruled the contact inadvertent and waved play on.

The 0-0 final score slightly favors Cruz Azul, since they kept Toluca from scoring an away goal. If the return leg ends in a draw with goals (1-1, 2-2, etc.), La Máquina will win due to the away goals tiebreaker. A 0-0 draw would send it to extra time, and of course, if either team wins the second leg they’ll win the final.

The second leg will be next week, on Wednesday, April 23rd in the Estadio Nemesio Díez (8:00 PM, Fox Sports 2 / Univision Deportes).

Highlights

Lineups

Cruz Azul: Guillermo Allison, Rogelio Chávez, Emanuel Loeschbor, Julio César Domínguez, Gerardo Flores, Gerardo Torrado, Alejandro Castro, Marco Fabián, Mauro Formica (Christian Giménez 66′), Joao Rojas (Pablo Barrera 81′), Mariano Pavone (Achille Emaná 66′).

Toluca: Alfredo Talavera, Francisco Gamboa, Aarón Galindo, Paulo da Silva, Miguel Ponce, Wilson Tiago, Juan Manuel Salgueiro (Raúl Nava 86′), Antonio Ríos, Carlos Esquivel (Óscar Rojas 92′), Isaác Brizuela (Édgar Benítez 84′), Pablo Velázquez. 

CONCACAF Champions League Final: First Leg Preview

concacaf champions

Cruz Azul will host Toluca in the first leg of the 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League final tonight (8:00 PM – Fox Sports 2 / Univision Deportes). It will be the third all-Mexican final in the last three years, but the teams have changed. Monterrey, which won the last three editions, did not even qualify this time.

Historically speaking, Cruz Azul has reached the final 7 times and won 5 – but all 5 of those wins came in the old CONCACAF Champions’ Cup. They have yet to win the Champions League, despite reaching the final in both 2009 and 2010, where they lost to Pachuca and Atlante. Cruz Azul’s penchant for reaching finals – both internationally and domestically – only to lose at the final hurdle, has earned them the sarcastic nickname “El Eterno Subcampeón” (The Eternal Runners-Up).

Toluca, meanwhile, has reached the final 4 times and won twice, although all of their appearances came under the old format, which wasn’t changed until the 2008-09 season.

The Diablos Rojos will be the away team in this first leg, but La Máquina will be without suspended goalkeeper José de Jesús Corona for this game. Toluca are unbeaten in this competition (6 wins, 2 draws), while Cruz Azul lost the first legs of both the quarter and semifinals. They’ll want to avoid doing that tonight, since the return leg will be at Toluca, and they’re unbeaten at home in all competitions this season.

Both teams put out sub- and reserve- based lineups in the league over the weekend, to save their starters for the final. Cruz Azul’s alternative squad drew 2-2 with Pachuca, while Toluca’s defeated León 2-1.

A Look Ahead at Promotion

ascensoWith Atlante set to descend to the Liga de Ascenso, it’s time to take a look at who might replace them. 

To earn promotion to Liga MX, the winners of the Liga de Ascenso Apertura and Clausura tournaments face off against each other in a promotion playoff. Should the same team win both tournaments, they’re automatically promoted.

The Apertura 2013 tournament was won by Leones Negros, who have also qualified for the Clausura 2014 playoffs, so they could earn a direct ticket to Liga MX.

Although there are two weeks left in the Liga MX season, the Liga de Ascenso has wrapped up and is getting ready for the playoffs. The top-seeded team, in this case Correcaminos, is given a direct ticket to the semifinals, while the teams that finished 2nd-7th will face off in the quarterfinals.

The quarterfinal matchups and schedule are as follows:

Estudiantes Tecos (2) vs Dorados de Sinaloa (7)
First leg: Wednesday, April 16th – 11:00 PM
Second leg: Saturday, April 19th – 7:00 PM

Necaxa (3) vs Delfines (6)
First leg: Wednesday, April 16th – 9:00 PM
Secong leg: Saturday, April 19th – 9:00 PM

Leones Negros (4) vs Alebrijes de Oaxaca (5)
First leg: Wednesday, April 16th – 7:00 PM
Second leg: Saturday, April 19th – 1:00 PM

Correcaminos will face the lowest remaining seed in the semifinals, and the other two quarterfinal winners will face each other.

Week 15 Disciplinary Report

The Disciplinary Committee handed out six suspensions after Jornada 15′s games. All six players were suspended for a single game and will miss their team’s penultimate matches of the season.

Lucas Lobos (Tigres UANL) and Elio Castro (Tijuana) were each suspended for yellow card accumulation after picking up their 5th yellow of the season over the weekend.

Marco Antonio Palacios (Pumas UNAM) and Jaime Ayoví (Tijuana) were suspended after they were sent off over the weekend after accumulating two yellow cards. This was not the first time “Pikolín” Palacios has been sent off with two yellows this season, which led to Pumas coach José Luis Trejo accusing the referees of targeting his player.

Finally, Edy Brambila (Toluca) and Uriel Álvarez (Puebla) will each miss a game after picking up straight reds in Jornada 15.

Liga MX in the Copa Libertadores: Where to Watch

Copa_Bridgestone_Libertadores_logoThe Copa Libertadores knockout stages begin this week with the Round of 16, and both of Liga MX’s representatives have made it this far.

Santos Laguna will host Argentina’s Lanús in the first leg this Wednesday, while León will travel to Bolivia to take on Bolívar that same day. The second legs will be played on April 23rd and 22nd, respectively.

Wednesday, April 16

Santos Laguna vs Lanús – 6:30 PM – Fox Deportes

Bolívar vs León – 9:00 PM – Fox Deportes

Liga MX Jornada 15 Statistics

Cruz Azul is still top of the table, although Toluca gained ground on La Máquina and are just two points back. Atlante’s relegation was assured last night, unless the Cancún side can win both of their remaining games by 7+ goals while Puebla loses both of theirs by 7+ goals (in order to overcome the goal difference tiebreaker, which is currently Atlante -63, Pubela -35).

In terms of the playoff race, it looks like it’s going to go down to the wire. Cruz Azul and Toluca have locked up their spots, but there are still 6 up for grabs, and the only team mathematically unable to qualify is Puebla. That leaves 15 teams still in the running for 6 spots (although the relegated team cannot participate in the Liguilla even if they finish in the qualifying places).

Enner Valencia (Pachuca) added to his lead atop the individual goalscoring table and now has 11 goals on the season. He’s followed by Martín Bravo (Pumas) and Michael Arroyo (Atlante), who have 8 goals apiece.

Santos Laguna still has the best team offense in the league, with 29 goals for. The worst offense belongs to last-place Puebla, who have scored just 9 times. Toluca overtook Cruz Azul for best defense, with 12 goals conceded, while Atlante has the worst defense with 27 goals allowed.

On the disciplinary side of things, the refs handed out 36 yellow cards and 4 reds, a significant reduction from last week’s 48 yellows and 7 reds. Veracruz didn’t receive any cards this weekend, but they’re still the most-carded team in the league with 47 yellows, while Querétaro has the fewest with 26. Chivas de Guadalajara has taken over the top of the fair play table.

# Team W L T GF GD Points
1 Cruz Azul 10 2 3 25 +12 33
2 Toluca 10 4 1 24 +12 31
3 Santos 6 3 6 29 +5 24
4 América 7 6 2 20 +4 23
5 Pumas 6 5 4 24 +6 22
6 Pachuca 6 6 3 18 +2 21
7 Tijuana 6 6 3 19 -1 21
8 Chivas 5 4 6 13 -3 21
9 Querétaro 6 7 2 15 -3 20
10 Atlas 4 5 6 15 -1 18
11 Morelia 4 5 6 15 -1 18
12 Tigres 4 5 6 11 -2 18
13 Atlante 5 7 3 19 -8 18
14 León 4 6 5 18 +2 17
15 Jaguares 4 6 5 15 -4 17
16 Monterrey 4 6 5 15 -4 17
17 Veracruz 3 6 6 11 -8 15
18 Puebla 2 7 6 9 -8 12

Tabla de Cociente – Relegation Zone

# Team Points Games Average
13 Chivas 117 100 1.1700
14 Veracruz 35 32 1.0938
15 Jaguares 109 100 1.0900
16 Atlas 106 100 1.0600
17 Puebla 104 100 1.0400
18 Atlante 98 100 0.9800

 

 

Santos Laguna vs Atlante – Jornada 15

santos atlanteEvery result went Atlante’s way this weekend – except this one. Needing a draw at the very least to keep any shred of hope of avoiding relegation, Atlante fell 4-3 to Santos in a game that was not nearly as close as the scoreline might imply.

This loss relegated Atlante. It’s not official yet, but it’s a fact.

The Potros are 6 points behind Puebla with two games left in the season, meaning the two teams could theoretically finish level in the relegation standings. However, if that were to happen, the tiebreaker is goal difference, and Atlante’s is currently -63 to Puebla’s -35. The only way Atlante could overcome that 28-goal swing in two matches would be with some extremely unsubtle match-fixing or an act of God.

Defending has been Atlante’s weak point all season and Carlos Darwin Quintero appeared to take advantage of that early on. However, the assistant referee raised his flag and the goal was disallowed, despite replays showing that none of the Santos players involved in the attack were actually offside.

But it didn’t take long for Quintero to render the error moot, as he sent a perfectly-placed free kick just out of the reach of Yosgart Gutiérrez and into the upper 90 in the 15th minute to give Santos a deserved lead.

Quintero got back on the scoresheet in the 33rd minute when he finished off a pass from Oribe Peralta to make it 2-0. The Colombian terrorized Atlante’s defense for the entire first half, even though his second goal came after he picked up an ankle knock.

Atlante had a golden opportunity to reduce the deficit in the 49th minute, when referee Fernando Guerrero pointed to the penalty spot, but Michael Arroyo sent the PK crashing against the crossbar.

Ángel Sepúlveda would give Atlante a lifeline in the 57th minute when he headed Paúl Uscanga’s cross into the net, but José Abella would restore Santos’s 2-goal cushion in the 78th minute, assisted by Mauro Cejas.

An 88th minute goal from Luis Madrigal made it 3-2 and looked like it was going to set up a frantic finish, as even a draw would keep Atlante’s hopes alive. But Carlos Darwin Quintero appeared a minute later to finish off his hat-trick, making it 4-2 heading into the 5 minutes of stoppage time.

Atlante still didn’t give in. Scoring goals has not been a problem for the Cancún side – just preventing them at the other end – and Madrigal found his second goal of the night with a 94th minute header. However, with only a minute remaining after that, Atlante was unable to find an equalizer.

Santos’s 4-3 win lifts them to 23 points and nearly seals their spot in the playoffs, while Atlante remains on 18 points and will bid farewell to the first division at the end of the season.

Highlights

Lineups

Santos: Oswaldo Sánchez, Sergio Ceballos, Rafael Figueroa, Osmar Mares, Oswaldo Alanís, Juan Pablo Rodríguez, José Abella, Carlos Darwin Quintero, Andres Rentería (Mauro Cejas 76′), Javier Orozco (Néstor Araujo 54′), Oribe Peralta (Eduardo Herrera 87′).

Atlante: Yosgart Gutiérrez, Arturo Muñoz (Luis Madrigal 46′), Luis Venegas, Salustiano Candía, Martín Galmarini (Luis Rodríguez 72′), Ángel Sepúlveda, Paúl Uscanga (Carlos Acosta 60′), Daniel Guerrero, Roberto Gutíerrez, Michael Arroyo, Alejandro Vela. 

Chivas de Guadalajara vs Monarcas Morelia – Jornada 15

chivas moreliaChivas de Guadalajara came from behind to earn a 1-1 draw with Monarcas Morelia, which puts Ricardo La Volpe’s team into the playoff spots for the moment and keeps Morelia on the outside looking in.

Chivas were unable to pick up three points in La Volpe’s home debut, as Morelia surprised them with a goal in the first minute of play. Jorge Zárate controlled a back-heeled pass from Héctor Mancilla inside the box before sending his diagonal shot past José Antonio Rodríguez to open the scoring less than 60 seconds in.

The early goal changed the rhythm of the game. Chivas, as the home team, was obligated to look for the equalizer, but despite several chances from Omar Bravo – back on the field after recovering from injury – Morelia still had the lead at halftime.

When the game resumed, Bravo made way for Giovani Hernández, and the substitution bore fruit for Guadalajara within ten minutes. In the 54th minute, Hernández sent a cross in from the right side that Carlos Gerardo Rodríguez headed into the back of the net to put Chivas back on level footing.

Neither side was able to find a winning goal in the remaining half-hour of play, and the game finished 1-1. That draw brings Chivas to 21 points and Morelia to 18.

Highlights

Lineups

Chivas: José Antonio Rodríguez, Omar Esparza, Néstor Vidrio, Patricio Araujo, Carlos Gerardo Rodríguez, Édgar Solís, José Ramírez (Ángel Zaldívar 80′), Israel Castro, Carlos Fierro (Carlos Cisneros 73′), Aldo de Nigris, Omar Bravo (Giovani Hernández 46′). 

Morelia: Carlos Felipe Rodríguez, Ignacio González, Felipe Baloy, Joel Huiqui, Carlos Morales (José Olvera 60′), Jorge Zárate, Egidio Arévalo, Aldo Leao, Armando Zamorano (Óscar Fernández 71′), Duvier Risacos, Héctor Mancilla (Christian Valdez 60′). 

Toluca vs León – Jornada 15

toluca leonWith both teams involved in international competitions this week – Toluca, the CONCACAF Champions league, and León, the Copa Libertadores – the two coaches sent out sides consisting almost entirely of reserves. Although León took the lead, they were unable to hold it and Toluca fought back for a 2-1 win to keep their home unbeaten streak alive. The Diablos Rojos were already assured of a spot in the playoffs, but the loss diminishes León’s chances of making the Liguilla and defending their title.

The visitors went in front in the 23rd minute. Following a corner kick, Sebastián Maz headed the ball into the six-yard box and a crowd of players, with the ball eventually making its way into César Lozano’s goal – with some dispute about who got the final touch.

Toluca started pressing forward in search of an equalizer, and they found one before halftime. Gabriel Velasco hit a low shot from outside the box that slipped inside Christian Martínez’s right post to make it 1-1.

The Diablos took control of the game after the goal, but their forwards were unable to find a second. It would be a defender, Óscar Rojas, who gave them the lead with a free kick in the 56th minute. Toluca continued to dominate after their second goal, with León showing little threat of finding an equalizer.

With the 2-1 win, Toluca reaches 31 points while León remains on 17.

Highlights

Lineups

Toluca: César Lozano, Óscar Rojas, Miguel Almazán, Édgar Dueñas, Héctor Acosta (Jordan Silva 85’), Jorge Sartiaguin (Gerardo Heredia 88’), Gabriel Velasco (Alejandro Navarro 61’), Carlos Orrantia, Edy Brambila, Édgar Benítez, Raúl Nava.

León: Christian Martínez, Arturo Ortiz, Luis Delgado, Cristian Torres, Juan Carlos Pineda, Aldo rocha, Miguel Palafox (Luis Miguel Franco 46’), Dennis Flores (Jorge Calderón 69’), Mauricio Castañeda, Miguel Sabah, Sebastián Maz. 

Puebla vs América – Jornada 15

puebla americaDespite doubled ticket prices – normally costing between 70 and 280 pesos, tickets for this match went for 140 to 560 pesos (about $10-$40) – about 43,000 fans crowded into the Estadio Cuauhtémoc to see Puebla play for the three points that would keep them up. Of course, it’s worth noting that most of those fans came dressed in yellow and hoping for an América win.

The visiting fans got what they were looking for in the 2nd minute, when Miguel Layún’s low shot from outside the box got past Jorge Villalpando. Behind on the scoreboard so early on, Puebla – the lowest scoring team in the Clausura – had little chance of finding the two goals they needed to win.

It wasn’t until the second half, and the entrance of Saúl Villalobos, that Puebla began to get any kind of foothold in the game. And it was right then, when the home team was actually starting to string some chances together, that Uriel Álvarez was sent off with a straight red following a hard challenge on Paul Aguilar.

After that, América looked more likely to score a second than Puebla did to score their first, and the game finished 0-1 in favor of the visitors.

The win catapults América into third place in the table with 23 points, while Puebla remains dead last with 12 points, and still involved in the relegation fight, pending Atlante’s result later this evening.

Highlights

Lineups

Puebla: Jorge Villalpando, Óscar Rojas, Mario de Luna, Jesús Chávez, Uriel Álvarez, Luis Noriega (Iván Bella 80’), Francisco Torres, Carlos Guzmán (Saúl Villalobos 46’), Carlos Sánchez, Maicon dos Santos (Juan Carlos Cacho 58’), DaMarcus Beasley.

América: Moisés Muñoz, Francisco Rodríguez, Aquivaldo Mosquera, Pablo Aguilar, Paul Aguilar, Raúl Jiménez (Antonio López 90’), Juan Carlos Medina, Jesús Molina, Luis Mendoza (Daniel Ríos 74’), Miguel Layún, Luis Gabriel Rey (Osvaldo Martínez 67’).