miércoles, 27 de octubre de 2010

Game 14: Pumas 1 - 1 Atlas

Pumas fans remained in good heart despite a poor performance in an error-strewn draw against Atlas.

The reports have been temporarily suspended due to illness. The blog will be back shortly.

domingo, 24 de octubre de 2010

Game 13: Tigres 2 - 0 Pumas

A sparkling display from Lucas Lobos (picture, left) led Tigres to a deserved win over Pumas in the 'Volcán'.

See highlights here.

The tactical battle between 'El Tuca' Ferretti and his ex-assistant at Pumas, Guillermo Vázquez, was decisively won by the Brazilian as Pumas attacking threat was stifled while the attacking flair of the Monterrey side was allowed to flourish. Goals from Juninho and Damián Alvarez, created by the flair of Argentinian Lucas Lobos saw the home side cruise to an ultimately comfortable win.

Pumas began with the same team that had beaten Jaguares, while similarly Ferretti kept faith with the side that took a point in Cancún last weekend.

The game started brightly with both teams pushing forward in a lively early evening atmosphere in Monterrey. In particular Dante López for Pumas was making some intelligent runs, but both teams were showing excellent movement and playing at a good rhythm. Lobos was getting Verón thinking while the less cerebral but no less intense battle between 'Pikolín' Palacios and Itamar Batista was fascinating.

As the game settled down both midfields found their feet and spaces began to disappear, so while there was a lot of endeavour from the two sides there were a lot of mistakes and no real chances created. Slowly, however, Tigres began to gain the ascendancy, and they began to exert pressure, although initially it appeared that the Pumas defence was comfortable. First Alvarez had a weak shot easily saved by Bernal and then Jiménez headed over from a Lobos corner, but it was still something of a surprise when Tigres took the lead.

Alvarez took the ball down the left hand side then fed Lobos who burst towards the area. The cover seemed to be there but he fed back to Juninho just outside the area for a shot at goal. The attempt was going wide, but unfortunately for Chiapas, who was the covering defender, the ball slid off the bottom of his foot and ended up in the bottom corner of Bernal's net. Tigres probably just about deserved their lead, but the Pumas defence had seemed as if it could cope.

As often happens the goal changed the game. Tigres now came forward with much more purpose and confidence while Pumas began to look a little more nervous on the ball. In particular we saw little of last week's form from Cortés and Leandro was somewhat negative in his play. Curiously Antonio Sancho, the ex-Pumas captain, was also very quiet for Tigres as the home side bypassed him in their attempt to be more direct. It was at this point that Espinosa showed his best as he defended with intelligence while prompting some of Pumas's best attacking intentions.

Both sides had some half chances as the first period drew to a close, as Dante shot just wide and Alvarez had his weak effort comfortably stopped by Bernal. Nevertheless the most interesting episode at this point was the tussle between Castro and Itamar. Normally self-controlled and somewhat self-effacing Castro took exception to Itamar's treatment of Espinosa and Palacios and pushed the Brazilian away, and he immediately fell to the ground and claimed for a penalty. Referee Roberto García, who had an excellent game, correctly took no notice and awarded a free-kick to Pumas for the original infringement.

Pumas needed to come out with more attacking ideas in the second half but Tuca's instructions were clearly to close down the space rapidly and give his ex-team no time to build attacks. Tigres broke up the game successfully and Pumas's only chances came from set plays, as Bravo went in on a Leandro free-kick and got clattered by goalkeeper Cirilo Saucedo for his trouble, while on another occasion Palacios headed straight at the 30 year-old keeper. Tigres had few attacking moments but were keeping the game quiet, while Pumas's best effort came from Leandro who had his shot from outside the area palmed away by Saucedo after good work from Dante.

Bravo had not been at his best and Viniegra and Juninho had covered him well, so it made sense for him to make way for another attacking option. Surprisingly, though, Vázquez went for Palencia when Cacho seemed the better choice. From this moment the attack became more laboured, although Orrantia was lively on the right after coming on for the disappointing Cortés. As Pumas struggled more Tigres finally took hold of the game. Itamar Batista came close to making it two for the home team as Lobos got free down the left and fired in a cross that the Brazilian's lunge could not quite reach.

Then with quarter of an hour left Tigres effectively made the game safe with a beautifully worked goal inspired by Lobos. Working his way down the right past a couple of defenders he slid an inch-perfect ball across the area to Pulido who had come on for Itamar. As Espinosa came to make the challenge, the 19 year-old slipped the ball deftly left to Alvarez who slotted into the empty net.

Pumas offered very little from then on, except from a Leandro free-kick which went straight to Saucedo and Lobos, ex-Puma Toledo and Alvarez carried the ball effectively for Tigres and comfortably played out time. As time ran out the frustration finally told as clumsy challenges saw Palencia and Palacios become the first bookings of the game. With this victory Tigres climb to fifth in the overall standings, while Pumas drop behind Jaguares again in Group 3.

Tigres: Cirilo Saucedo, Juninho, Hugo Ayala, Jorge Torres Nilo, Israel Jiménez, Antonio Sancho (Jesús Molina 76), Manuel Viniegra, Lucas Lobos, Francisco Acuña (David Toledo 85), Itamar Batista (Alán Pulido 76), Damián Álvarez. Manager:  Ricardo Ferretti.

Pumas: Sergio Bernal, Efraín Velarde, Marco Antonio 'Pikolín' Palacios, Darío Verón, Jehu Chiapas (Fernando Morales 72), Fernando Espinosa, Israel Castro, Leandro Augusto, Dante López, Martín Bravo (Juan Francisco Palencia 66), Javier Cortés (Carlos Orrantia 58). Manager: Guillermo Vázquez.

Juninho (22 minutes) 1-0
Damián Alvarez (77) 2-0

Tigres: none
Pumas: yellow: Palacios, Palencia (Both for frustrated challenges near the end)

Pumas Player Ratings

Bernal 7: No chance for the goal and otherwise a safe pair of hands.
Velarde 5: Reasonably comfortable but we are still to see him creating in attack.
Palacios 6: One mistake when left in trouble by Verón but in general in his duel with Batista he came out with credit.
Verón 6: As last week a few little mistakes but a good all round performance.
Espinosa 7: Continues to be positive and made some excellent tackles too.
Chiapas 5: Anopnymous for much of the game but a couple of nice touches.
Castro 6: Not as dominant as last week, but it is great to see the desire back.
Leandro 5: A little too negative and often caught going backwards. A couple of nice cracks on goal though.  
Bravo 6: Tried hard but given very little space.
Dante 7: Full of running and Pumas's best forward.
Cortés 5: Quiet although did have one header go just wide.
Orrantia 6: Did pretty well on the right and looks to be growing in confidence.
Palencia 4: Slowed the game right down when he came on. Pumas have to pick someone else.
Morales 5: Still working his way back to full match fitness.

Vázquez 6: Outdone by Ferretti tactically but made a good fist of it, and with a bit more luck might have got something out of the game. Nevertheless he must start to see how damaging Palencia is to this team.

Elsewhere in Mexico

All four Mexican teams reached the last eight of the Concacaf Champons League following this week's results. The only loss was by already qualified Cruz Azul who fell 3-1 in Utah against Real Salt Lake. Their understrength team was undone by a brace from Paolo Araújo. Monterrey claimed a 1-0 victory in Honduras with the winner from Sergio Santana, thus finishing with the best qualifying record of the quarter-finalists. Toluca confirmed their spot in the next round by crushing FAS of El Salvador in the Estadio Nemesio Diez. A Héctor Mancilla hatrick helped them to a 5-0 victory. And finally Santos were equally emphatic in dispatching Municipal of Guatemala 6-1with Oribe Peralta and Daniel Ludueña  getting two goals apiece. The quarter finals will take place at the end of February with the qualified teams being: Monterrey, Santos, Toluca, Cruz Azul (all Mexico), Real Salt Lake, Columbus Crew (both USA), and Deportivo Saprissa (Costa Rica). The last spot will go to either Puerto Rico Islanders or Olímpia of Honduras.

In this week's league games the play-offs began to loom large. Cruz Azul could have qualified this week with a win, but could only manage a 1-1 draw in Morelia, with their ex-striker Miguel Sabah getting a late equaliser for the Monarcas. San Luis pushed themselves into play-off contention with a comfortable 2-0 at Necaxa, comfirming their position at the top of Group 2, and ensuring Necaxa remain at the bottom of the relegation table. Querétaro eased their relegation worries as a second-half goal by Uruguyan Sergio Blanco saw them to a 1-0 win over Estudiantes.

Jaguares moved up into a play-off spot, defeating Pachuca 2-0 in Tuxtla, while goals from Alfredo 'El Chango' Moreno and ex-Puma Gerardo Espinoza gained Atlas a valuable 3-1 win over fellow strugglers Atlante, who now go second bottom in the relegation battle. In the game between second and third, Monterrey came out on top 2-1 against Santos to remain unbeaten and move level on points with Cruz Azul. Humberto Suazo got a spectacular first for the 'regiomontanos' while fellow sharpshooter Chistián Benítez pulled Santos level. Osvaldo Martínez got the winner when he pushed in the rebound after a save by Oswaldo Sánchez from Neri Cardozo. Toluca maintained their unbeaten home record with a 2-1 win over Puebla, despite falling behind to a Gabriel Pereyra goal. A Sinha free-kick and a Mancilla header saw them to victory. Meanwhile there was embarrassment all round as a healthy 90,000 crowd saw Chivas and América play out an inspid bore draw in the Azteca. There were even suggestions after the sterile 0-0 that fans may even get their money back.

With four games left, Cruz Azul and Monterrey remain poised to qualify, while San Luis and Santos are next-best placed.

Group 1
Monterrey        29pts
Santos              22
Tigres               19
Chivas              16
Necaxa             13
Estudiantes       12

Group 2
San Luis           22
Toluca              20
América            18
Pachuca           16
Atlas                 11
Atlante               9

Group 3
Cruz Azul           29
Jaguares            19
Pumas               18
Morelia               16
Puebla                15
Querétaro           15

The top two teams from each group qualify with the last two quarter-finalists being those with the next best records.

Next Up
This week there are midweek games, with Pumas hosting Atlas on Tuesday evening. On the same night Pachuca v Tigres looks interesting, while on Wednesday Chivas host Toluca. Wednesday's big game is between the top two as Cruz Azul travel to Monterrey.

domingo, 17 de octubre de 2010

Game 12: Pumas 1 - 0 Jaguares

In the battle of the big cats from Group 3 Pumas came out on top with a long-range strike from Martín Bravo.

See the goal here.

Pumas dominated again in CU but in the end had to hang on for a slender 1-0 victory. The goal came once again from Bravo, but several misses put pressure on his colleagues and the home team were happy to see out the win in the end.

Both Jaguares and Pumas had talked during the week about what an important game this was: Jaguares were on a winning streak and had edged ahead of Pumas into second place in Group 3. The winner would certainly position themselves better for the run-in to play off qualification, particularly as Cruz Azul are effectively out of sight above them.

Pumas stuck with the same team that played well in Pachuca, except for the return of Darío Verón for Luis Fuentes, with Velarde reverting to his accustomed left-back position. Jaguares made no changes from the side that beat Atlante 2-0 last week.

The game began openly with Pumas the more insistent team. Playing once again with the verve that has characterised the Bravo-Dante partnership they were soon creating openings. As early as the first minute Villalpando in the Jaguares goal had to be alert as Bravo raced onto a through ball , punching the ball away from the forward's foot just inside the area. Cortés was also quick to get into the action in what was to turn out to be his best performance for Pumas to date. With Castro also much more involved there was a freshness to the play down the right hand side that we have not seen since Barrera's departure.

At the other end Jackson Martínez in particular looked dangerous but generally Pumas were keeping the ball and on 11 minutes they almost had the lead. Espinoza turned in a sharp low cross which Bravo controlled well, but his shot struck Villalpando's legs, and Dante had his follow-up shot blocked. Dante was doing lots of running and almost got away when he robbed Serrano, but he was pulled back for what seemed a harsh foul. 

Pumas continued to press as the half approached its midpoint, a corner just eluding Verón after Villalpando made a mess of the cross. Chiapas and Bravo also had long range attempts which were just off target. in the meantime Bernal had to pull off a decent save from Martínez as he hit one from a long way out following a Verón mistake.

José Guadalupe 'el Profe' Cruz perhaps thought his side were under pressure and needed to change something, or maybe Miguel Angel Martínez had picked up a small knock, but he made way for Jesús Chávez and almost straight away the Chiapas team were more composed. They began to look comfortable defending and mistakes from both teams began to appear in the middle of the field. 

As Pumas for the first time lost the ascendancy, Velarde took a thrown-in to Bravo midway inside the Jaguares half, and the young Argentinian pushed the ball to the right and hit a hard right-foot shot towards the left corner of the goal. Villalpando may have been slow to react, but the ball was exceptionally well struck, and ended up in the back of the net to give Pumas a deserved 1-0 lead.

The team from Tuxtla Gutierrez reacted energetically and set about looking for the equaliser. Similarly Pumas began to fall a bit too deep and allow too much space in front of the back four. This gave them a few anxious moments, as Bernal had to be well-positioned to pick up a couple of balls free in the area, while Ochoa should have done better as his shot from the inside-right position in the area rolled tamely to the Pumas keeper.

The game began to get a little messy, with a few fouls, a to-and-fro in midfield, and neither side able to create very much. The only chance of note fell when Verón fouled Ochoa in a dangerous position just outside the box, giving Jaguares a belated opportunity to go in level, but the free kick was blasted well wide.

José Cruz brought on Alan Zamora, who was with him at Atlante, at the beginning of the second half and he was lively as both teams battled hard. Ochoa had another chance to level things for Jaguares but shot straight at Bernal after Cortés got back well to pressure him. Encouraged, Jaguares kept pushing forward and were having their best spell of the match, keeping position and probing nicely. Their movement was causing problems for Pumas and a Benítez through ball put Rodríguez free behind Espinosa to force Bernal into a good save closing the angle. In the meantime Bravo had wasted a good chance to put his team two up after Cortés beat his man at the bye-line and pulled back for 'La Rata' to shoot over.

Slowly Pumas began to put some more shape into their play and Jaguares were reduced to shooting from distance. With measured build-up play they managed to work decent half-chances for Castro and Cortés who both went close from outside the area, while Chiapas shot just wide after a neat pass from Bravo.

As the game entered the last ten minutes you wondered if the home team would pay for their profligacy in front of goal. Dante López wasted another good chance as he lobbed Villalpando but missed by inches at the far post. But Pumas were given a lift when Fernando 'el Zurdo' Morales came on for Jehu Chiapas for his first game in over a year after a cruciate ligament injury, and he received a good reception from the crowd.

The home side began to defend their lead a little nervously and with Palencia and Cacho on they began to sit too deep again and Jaguares were able to come forward and keep possession. Nevertheless, apart from a dangerous corner which Verón had to work hard to cut out, Jaguares were unable to get behind the Pumas defence, and their attacking became increasingly desperate. And right on the final whistle Morales had a chance to make it a fairytale return for him as he got away, but he took too long and Villalpando was able to make a nice right-handed save.

So a deserved victory for Pumas, and they leapfrog Jaguares into second place in the Group. It was a performance with some fluidity, and at the moment it is good enough, but maybe on other occasions they will be made to pay for failing to take their chances.

One final thought: those people who have watched Marco Antonio Rodríguez refereeing over the past few years (and at the World Cup) have seen him being inconsistent, spraying cards around and losing his cool. In this report his name was not even mentioned - a tribute to the fact that despite one or two slightly harsh yellow cards he had an excellent game.

Pumas: Sergio Bernal, Fernando Espinosa, Marco Antonio 'Pikolín' Palacios, Darío Verón, Efraín Velarde, Javier Cortés, Israel Castro, Leandro Augusto, Jehu Chiapas (Fernando Morales 81), Dante López (Juan Carlos Cacho 86), Martín Bravo (Juan Francisco Palencia 85). Manager: Guillermo Vázquez.

Jaguares: Jorge Villalpando, Marvin Cabrera, Miguel Angel Martínez (Jesús Chávez 27), Ismael Fuentes, Omar Serrano, Oscar Razo (Alan Zamora 46), Jorge Hernández, Danilinho, Jorge Rodríguez (Edgar Andrade 65), Carlos Ochoa, Jackson Martínez. Manager: José Guadalupe Cruz.

Martín Bravo (32nd minute) 1-0

Pumas: yellow: Leandro (jumped into tackle), Bravo (trailing leg), Espinosa (foul)
Jaguares: yellow: Razo (trip on Cortés, Hernández (foul), Zamora (pulling back Cortés), Fuentes (foot up)

Pumas Players Ratings

Bernal 7: Solid in everything he did and a couple of nice saves.
Velarde 6: More comfortable back at left-back.
Palacios 6: Comfortable. Had no difficult moments and covered well.
Verón 6: His return stabilised the defence. Not at his imperious best, with a couple of errors.
Espinosa 6: His positive approach down the right is starting to form a good team with Cortés and Castro.
Chiapas 6: As always, a mixed bag.
Castro 7: His best game for a while - influential in Pumas's early creativity and a couple of cracks on goal.  
Leandro 6: Quiet but did nothing wrong and one or two cute passes.
Bravo 7: Nice goal and very lively. One of these days he might get a few.
Dante 6: Continues to combine well with Bravo, but needs to finish his chances.
Cortés 7: His best display in a Pumas shirt - a danger whenever he had the ball.
Morales, Cacho, Palencia: On too little time to merit a rating. Nice to see Morales back though.

Vázquez 7: The attacking intent continues and one of these days Bravo and co will put those chances away. Also did well to stick with the starting line-up till near the end.

Elsewhere in Mexico
An apology for getting ahead of myself last week. The Concacaf Champions League games are this week. Check out last week's blog for the fixtures.

In the league, Estudiantes kicked off the weekend with a 2-1 home victory over Atlas, leaving the 'zorros' now in bottom position in the general classification. Samuel Ochoa headed the winner for the team from Zapopan in the 80th minute. A series of missed chances cost Santos as they lost 3-0 in Mexico City to leaders Cruz Azul. The goals came from Alejandro Vela, Horacio Cervantes and Christian Giménez. In the Bajío derby San Luis took an exciting 3-2 victory over Querétaro. In a pulsating encounter César González grabbed the winner for the home side.

Juan Carlos Rojas was the hero for Pachuca as he donned the goalkeeper's gloves, after Calero's sending off late in the game, to save a penalty from Miguel Sabah and rescue a point for the 'Tuzos'. Sabah had previously equalised Pena's earlier goal as the score finished 1-1. Another 1-1 draw saw Atlante and Tigres share the points in Cancún. Johan Fano continued his good scoring record for the home side, but a Carevic own goal handed the equaliser to Tigres. Another poor crowd in the unpopular Omnilife stadium watched Chivas break their eight game streak without a win. A Marco Fabián goal sealed an uninspiring 1-0 victory against Necaxa. Meanwhile in an exciting game in the Estadio Cuauthémoc Puebla and América played out a 2-2 draw. Daniel Márquez got two for América, and Gabriel Pereyra twice equalised for Puebla.

In Monterrey the two candidates for the Mexican National Team manager's job faced each other, in what seemed like a final interview for the post. In the event Víctor Manuel Vucetich spoiled the fun by announcing that he would step down from the managerial race, despite his side's 2-0 victory over José Manuel de la Torre's Toluca. It left the way clear for De La Torre to take the role with an announcement on Monday evening confirming his appointment. He is now pencilled in to lead the 'Tri' to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup.

Cruz Azul remain at the top of the table, with Monterrey just behind. Santos stay in third despite their defeat, with San Luis and Pumas 4th and 5th.

Next Up
Pumas travel to Monterrey to face Tigres (and Pumas's ex-manager 'El Tuca Ferretti). Second face third as Monterrey face Santos in Torreón, and on Sunday in the Mexican 'clásico' América play Chivas in the Estadio Azteca.

domingo, 10 de octubre de 2010

Game 11: Pachuca 3 - 2 Pumas

A mixture of wasted opportunities and naive defending leaves Pumas still waiting for their first away win of the season.

See the goals  here.

After last week's turgid win in CU, this game was undoubtedly the liveliest of the weekend, with plenty of action and passion. Ultimately what cost Pumas was a lack of organisation in defence, mostly due to the absence of Darío Verón on international duty.

Guillermo Vázquez started with regular left back Efraín Velarde in the centre alonside 'Pikolín' Palacios, and placed one-time right back Luis Fuentes at left-back. The lack of experience in these positions was to tell as the game wore on. Dante and Bravo again started up front, looking to create the spark that looked so good for an hour against Atlante. Pachuca's Edgar Benítez joined the same Paraguayan squad as Verón and was replaced by Víctor Mañón, in an otherwise unchanged 'tuzo' team.

The game began at a frantic pace, with Pumas in particular eager to get forward and erase memories of last week's sterility. Dante and Bravo again showed how they can create space working in tandem, and almost immediately the home defence was stretched. It took only until the 11th minute for Pumas to be ahead. Javier Muñoz lost the ball coming out of defence, Martín Bravo drove forwards and slipped the ball right to Dante López who blasted past Calero for the lead.

After the goal Pumas refused to sit back, and the commitment that Vázquez has made about creating a more attack-minded team seemed more than just promises. Leandro and Chiapas were switching places and working well down the left flank, while Dante and Bravo probed down the middle. Even Cortés who has often been quiet on the right hand side was contributing. The chances continued to come, with Chiapas pulling a save out of Calero, and Bravo latching onto a nice through ball from Dante only to shoot wide after rounding the keeper.

All the creative football was coming from the university team, but one always felt there was danger from Pachuca's set pieces, as former Puma Braulio Luna has a habit of doing well against his old team. After a couple of nervous moments from corners, Braulio finally got one spot on and Pachuca were level. Leobardo López rose free of any defensive attention and headed past the helpless Bernal. It was clear at this point that the experiment of Velarde as a centre-back looked flawed and Pumas fans may have wondered about the logic of not continuing with the experienced Carlos Humberto González in the squad.

Encouraged by the goal Pachuca began to battle hard and the spell of quarter of an hour before the break was more intense. Nevertheless all that was really achieved for either side was a booking each for Cvitanich and Cortés.

Pablo Marini, the Tuzos coach, must have examined the weaknesses in the Pumas defence at half time, because Pachuca came out determined to exploit them. If  they could get the ball into the right areas then Pumas would struggle at the back. And sure enough in the first minute of the second half the ball ended up with Brambila on the left, and his speculative cross was headed in unmarked by Cvitanich. Worse was to follow. Barely ten minutes later, a dreadful mix up between Fuentes and Velarde let Cvitanich free down the right and he squared for a (yet again) unmarked Mañón to sweep past Bernal.

A night of promise had turned sour for Pumas in just ten minutes, and heads began to drop a little. Fuentes, maybe partly to blame for the goal, went off for Palencia, and Jehu Chiapas dropped back to left back. Given his recent performances it was optimistic that the veteran forward could spark a revival but at least it was an attacking gesture. In this period Pumas were able to get forward, but without the attacking threat of earlier on, and a series of corners amounted to nothing as the game began to drift towards a comfortable Pachuca victory.

Surprisingly the withdrawal of Bravo for Cacho seemed to bring about a certain revival. Building up a head of steam the away side began to create opportunities. After a solid Leandro free kick was palmed away by Calero, Dante worked Cacho free on the edge of the area but his effort was weak and easily saved. Then Orrantía angled in and shot over the bar from a promising position, while Castro also saw a good effort saved.

Just as it looked as though all their efforts would bear no fruit, on 90 minutes Pumas pulled one back. Chiapas fired a low ball in from the left, and although Palencia should have scored, Cacho was sliding in behind him to put the ball into the net. A foul by Rojas allowed Pumas to dream of the equaliser as time drifted away. Cacho struck an excellent free kick but Calero pulled off a stunning save and the points were safe for Pachuca.

All in all a promising performance from Pumas, undone by defensive frailty. Perhaps they are on the right track, but they now need desperately to pick up points if they are to qualify for the Liguilla. Pachuca continue their good run and go above Pumas on goal difference, with both teams on 15 points. More importantly perhaps, Pachuca move to within two of leaders Toluca in Group2, while Pumas fall out of a qualifying spot to third in Group 3.

Pachuca: Miguel Calero, Leobardo López, Carlos Gerardo Rodríguez, Javier David Muñoz Mustafá, Marco Vidal, Edy Brambila, Braulio Luna, Juan Carlos Rojas, Víctor Mañón, Darío Cvitanich, Carlos Peña. Manager: Pablo Marini

Pumas: Sergio Bernal, Efraín Velarde, Marco Antonio 'Pikolín' Palacios, Jehu Chiapas, Luis Fuentes (Juan Fransico Palencia 58), Fernando Espinosa, Israel Castro, Leandro Augusto, Dante López, Martín Bravo (Juan Carlos Cacho 75), Javier Cortés (Carlos Emilio Orrantia 65). Manager: Guillermo Vázquez

Dante López (11th minute) 0-1
Leobardo López (32) 1-1
Darío Cvitanich (46) 2-1Víctor Manon (55) 3-1Juan Carlos Cacho (91) 3-2   Cards Pachuca: yellow: Cvitanich, Rojas, Calero, Munoz.  Pumas: yellow: Fuentes, Cortés, Castro (all for fairly innocuous tackles)  

Pumas Players Ratings

Bernal 6: No chance for the goals. A couple of regulation saves.
Velarde 5: Looked out of his depth at centre-back. 
Palacios 6: Tried hard but struggled to organise the defence in the absence of Verón.
Fuentes 5: Perhaps unfair to throw him in on the left but he and Velarde didn't look right.
Espinosa 5: Has to be partly responsible as a senior player for the poor defensive show.
Chiapas 6: Some nice moves and a great cross for the second goal.
Castro 6: More creative, and protected the defence well, just unable to help on marking at crosses.
Leandro 6: Galloped nicely down the left hand side.
Bravo 7: Another spirited display.
Dante 7: Good finish and combined well with Bravo once again.
Cortés 6: Lively again. Some of the younger players are finding it hard to be consistent, so an encouraging sign.
Cacho 6: A poor miss but a well taken goal and nice free kick. He seems less sluggish and perhaps fitter.  
Palencia 5: Continues to look off the pace. He should have scored the goal that Cacho got but was too slow to get there.
Orrantia 5: Got into some good positions and one or two nice touches. Pity about the missed chance.

Vázquez 5: Thumbs up for a much more attacking performance, and getting a better show out of Cacho. Thumbs down for overseeing a poorly organised defence.
  Elsewhere in Mexico These are interesting times for Mexican football. Ahead of Mexico's 2-2 draw in Ciudad Juárez against Venezuela (goals by 'Chicharito' Hernández and Giovanni Dos Santos) Néstor de la Torre, Head of Team Selection for the Mexican Federation, announced his resignation from the post. Given that he was at the centre of the players' furore following the party in Monterrey, his decision to go and the subsequent revelation by Justino Compeán, the Federation President, that he had apologised to the players, looks like an attempt to save face and move on. Meanwhile it has also been announced that the new manager will be revealed next week, and that it will either be Manuel de la Torre ('el Chepo') the Toluca manager (ironically Néstor's brother) or Víctor Manuel Vucetich ('el Vuce'), of Monterrey. The latter has a lot more managerial experience, having led 9 top flight clubs, and taken the title with four of them. 'El Chepo' has managed Chivas and Toluca.  Meanwhile in the league, a Nicolás Pavlovich goal gave Necaxa a much needed 1-0 win at home to Puebla. A 2-2 draw between Querétaro and Chivas did little for either team. Chivas languish on 12 points while the home team "Gallos Blancos" of Querétaro are now bottom of the relegation table. A later Héctor Almirano penalty saved the draw for the home side. Jaguares continued their good run with a 2-0 home win against struggling Atlante. The goals came from Uruguayan Jorge Marcelo Rodríguez and Brazilian Danilo Verón.  Ex-Pumas manager Ricardo 'El Tuca' Ferretti gained his best win in this spell as Tigres manager as his team thrashed Estudiantes in the 'Volcán'. Itamar Batista grabbed two and missed a penalty in a 5-0 victory. Atlas relieved some of their relegation worries as a last minute winner from Gerardo Espinoza (another ex-Puma) saw them beat San Luis 2-1. Sunday's games proved uninspiring as all three ended in 0-0 draws: Santos were unable to open up Morelia; Monterrey and América cancelled each other out and Cruz Azul missed chance after chance to let Toluca off the hook.  All this means that Santos and Monterrey are still clear in the qualifying spots in Group 1 with 23 and 22 points respectively. Tigres move to 3rd with 15. In Group 2 Toluca lead with 17, but there are four teams within two points. Cruz Azul lead Group 3 with 25 points, from Jaguares (16), but apart from Cruz Azul all the teams (including Pumas on 15) in the group are within four points of each other.  Next Up There are no more international fixtures this year, so perhaps with the announcement of the new manager on the 18th this long-running story can come to an end.  The final Concacaf Champions League group games  take place this week:Santos v Municipal (Guatemala)Real Salt Lake (US) v Cruz AzulToluca v FAS (El Salvador)Marathón (Honduras) v Monterrey Santos need a point while Toluca need to win to go through. The other Mexican teams have already qualified.  Pumas host Jaguares next Sunday. Other interesting fixtures include Cruz Azul v Santos and Monterrey v Toluca.  

domingo, 3 de octubre de 2010

Game 10: Pumas 1 - 0 Morelia

Pumas take their first win in five games with a narrow victory over Monarcas de Morelia.

See the goal here

An opportunistic strike from Paraguayan striker Dante López (picture) after an uncharacteristic error from Monarcas goalkeeper Federico Vilar, gave Pumas a narrow 1-0 victory and keeps their play-off aspirations on track. In a lacklustre encounter of few chances neither side looked like they had enough to force a win, and a dull 0-0 draw was on the cards before Dante stepped up to grab the headlines.

Despite a midweek ticket give-away for people bring food packets for the hurricane victims in Veracruz, the Olympic Stadium still had a few empty spaces and the atmosphere was muted for Pumas second home game in a row. Guillermo Vázquez had stuck with last week's successful partnership up front as Dante started with "La Rata" Martín Bravo. Chiapas returned on the left after his suspension, however, and last week's performance earned Rojas a start ahead of Javier Cortés. 

After their home defeat to Toluca, Morelia gave a start to youngster Jorge Kalú Gastelum, and ex-Puma youth player Rafael Márquez returned in place of Luis Gabriel Rey. CU also welcomed back Jaime Lozano, a double-winner with Pumas in 2004.

The first half was a drab affair and can just about be summed up in two incidents. Mexican international Miguel Sabah, otherwise anonymous throughout the whole game, had the ball in the net for Monarcas after just two minutes, but the goal was rightly disallowed for a clear offside. Pumas struck back and after ten minutes Verón headed a Leandro  corner goalwards, only for Vilar to push the ball onto the bar.

Other than a smattering of yellow cards, mostly for fairly minor infringements, that was the sum total of the excitement in a half where Pumas more or less controlled possession but could only create half-openings. Despite their vaunted firepower of Miguel Sabah, Elías Hernández and Hugo Droguett, Morelia only managed two efforts on goal in the whole game, compared to 27 in the Toluca match last week.

Pumas dragged off Rojas at half time and brought on Cortés, and it seemed to make a difference as the home side started with more purpose. Bravo finally had a couple of chances, but his efforts were scuffed slightly and Vilar was able to gather. It began to seem, as the hour mark approached, that both teams had run out of ideas when Pumas took the lead in slightly strange circumstances.

Those that have followed Atlante will know that Federico Vilar has a deserved reputation as a fine goalkeeper, and he even earned a call up to the Argentinian national squad a couple of years ago. So when Arias calmly stroked the ball back to his keeper, it came as a complete surprise that Vilar miscontrolled badly and the ball spurted forwards. Dante was alert and on hand, and taking care to avoid contact with the Morelia man, poked the ball ball past him and side-footed into an empty net. The Morelia players protested vigorously on the basis of a"foot up" but these claims were brushed aside. What had complicated things slightly was that the linesman had raised his flag and then sheepishly lowered it again. Still José Alfredo Peñalosa was not going to change his mind and the goal stood.

To make matters worse for Monarcas, within five minutes they were down to ten men: Jorge Kalú Gastelum picked up his second yellow for an apparently innocuous offence (although maybe he said something). If anything it spurred on the visitors to greater efforts, and Pumas began to retreat and leave spaces in midfield. Hernández had one decent effort from distance, but also blasted one over from near the penalty spot when well fed from the right.

Pumas, as has happened before, began to get nervous holding on to a slender lead. A corner was played short and held by the flag to use up a few seconds, while Leandro was booked for time-wasting. Nevertheless the last few minutes were free of incident, apart from the final corner of the game, when Vilar appeared in the Pumas area. The ball was cleared to Palencia (on for Bravo) who lumbered upfield and was unable to get a shot in on the empty net. Cacho (who had replaced Dante) following up pushed his effort wide.

So a disappointing afternoon's entertainment, but three valuable points for Pumas, who move to second in Group 3 behind runaway leaders Cruz Azul. Morelia are bottom of the same group but are only four points further back.

Pumas: Sergio Bernal, Efraín Velarde, Marco Antonio 'Pikolín' Palacios, Darío Verón, Jehu Chiapas, Fernando Espinosa, Israel Castro, Leandro Augusto, Oscar Rojas (Javier Cortés 46), Dante López (Juan Carlos Cacho 75), Martín Bravo (Juan Francisco Palencia 86). Manager: Guillermo Vázquez.

Morelia: Federico Vilar, Enrique Pérez, Adrián García Arias (Ismael Pineda 83), Adrián Aldrete, Mauricio Romero, Jorge Kalú Gastelum, Hugo Droguett (Luis Gabriel Rey 73), Jaime Lozano (Luis Miguel Noriega 73), Rafael Márquez Lugo, Miguel Sabah, Elías Hernández. Manager: Tomás Boy.

Dante López (63rd minute) 1-0

Pumas: yellow: Castro (foul), Rojas (foul), Bravo (a mystery), Velarde (foul), Leandro (time-wasting)
Morelia: yellow: Lozano (foul), Sabah (protesting at the goal); red: Gastelum (two yellows for tackles)

Pumas Players Ratings

Bernal 6: Nothing much to do but solid in what he did.
Velarde 6: No worries at the back, but showed little going forward.
Palacios 7: Worked hard and gave the forwards no space.
Verón 7: His usual calm presence.
Espinosa 6: Has established himself again ahead of Fuentes.
Chiapas 5: Not a good day. had a decent chance that he chipped straight at the goalkeeper.
Castro 5: Works hard but he needs to be involved in creating danger going forward.
Leandro 5: A quiet day.
Rojas 4: Disappointing after doing so well last week, but admittedly on his unfavoured right side.
Bravo 7: A handful, but couldn't quite get it right in front of goal.
Dante 7: Good opportunistic goal, but not quite last week's movement.
Cortés 6: A better game, a few lively moments down the right hand side.
Cacho 6: More movement and enthusiasm than we have seen from him for a while.
Palencia 4: It is hard to see much sense in bringing him on at the moment.

Vázquez 5: An uninspiring performance, and  the substitutions seemed mechanical. That said Cortés worked ok instead of an out-of-position Rojas.

Elsewhere in Mexico

The debate rumbles on about the sanctions handed out to the Mexican players after the party in Monterrey. Nevertheless the sanctioned players (other than the two banned) have been called up to the Mexican squad for the game against Venezuela in Ciudad Juárez, and they have accepted. It appears that the money from the fines is to be donated to the Hurricane Karl fund for those in need after the storm passed through Veracruz. This has helped the players feel it is ok to pay up and calmed the situation.

Meanwhile in the Concacaf Champions League Toluca made life difficult for themselves, suffering a 3-2 defeat to Puerto Rico Islanders. A last-minute header by David Horts gave the Puerto Ricans the victory after the 'Diablos Rojos' had squandered a two goal lead, after first-half strikes from Héctor Mancilla. Cruz Azul strolled to a comfortable 2-0 win over Arabe Unido (Panama) to assure their qualification, while a second-string Santos side thrashed Joe Public (Trinidad) 5-1. Monterrey's younsters managed a 2-2 draw in Costa Rica against the 'Purple Monster' of Deportivo Saprissa to keep their qualification on track.

After a dismal 0-0 draw between Jaguares and Estudiantes on Friday night, the games failed to explode with excitement this weekend. Othoniel Arce got the only goal as his header proved the winner in San Luis's 1-0 defeat of Tigres. Santos dominated in Torreón against Toluca and gained a deserved 2-0 victory, with José María Cárdenas scoring the first and making the second. Monterrey celebrated their return to the TV screens with a 2-1 win over relegation-threatened Necaxa. The goalscorers, unsurprisingly, in their tenth game without defeat: Humberto Suazo and Aldo de Nigris. A promising attacking display saw Puebla overcome Querétaro 2-0 in the Estadio Cuauhtémoc, with Rodrigo Salinas providing the pass for the first goal and scoring the second. Atlante lost their unbeaten record under new coach Eduardo Bacas, despite taking the lead against Pachuca in Cancún. Fano thought he had the second but a poor decision by the linesman saw it disallowed, and an Edgar Benítez brace helped the 'Tuzos' to a 3-1 win.

In the first of Sunday's derby fixtures Chivas and Atlas drew 2-2 on the artificial turf of the Omnilife stadium in Guadalajara. A poor attendance of only 20,000 saw Chivas grab a 90th minute equaliser through a Néstor Vidrio own goal, after earlier seeing Atlas keeper Pedro Hernández save De la Mora's penalty. In a much more intense encounter later in the day, Cruz Azul took the honours in the Mexico City derby against América, with Christian 'El Chaco' Giménez grabbing the winner.

The top positions remain unchanged, with Cruz Azul, Monterrey and Santos all winning. Necaxa remain rooted to the bottom of the relegation table, with a 1 point per game average.

Next Up

On Tuesday Santos face Municipal, while Cruz Azul  go to Utah to face Real Salt Lake. Toluca attempt to rescue their Concacaf Champions League season hosting FAS of El Salvador on Wednesday, and Monterrey head to Honduras to play Marathón. Monterrey and Cruz Azul have already qualified for the quarter-finals. Santos need a point to go through. Toluca need to win.

On Wednesday Chivas and Morelia make up their game lost earlier in the season due to Chivas's commitments in the Copa Libertadores. 

Pumas travel to Pachuca on Saturday evening.  The pick of the other games: on Sunday Toluca host Cruz Azul and América play Monterrey in the Estadio Azteca.

lunes, 27 de septiembre de 2010

Game 9: Pumas 2 - 2 Atlante

Pumas let slip a two-goal lead as the Centenary Party is spoiled in CU.

The centenary celebrations for the UNAM university were dampened somewhat as Pumas threw away a two-goal advantage when controlling the game against Atlante on Sunday. Inexplicably man-of-the-match Martín Bravo (picture) was withdrawn after an hour and two scrappy goals allowed the 'Potros' to draw level.

All seemed set fair as everything was put in place for an afternoon of fun in the Olympic Stadium. Students of the University had half-price tickets, the University Rector, José Narro Robles, was present , and a commemorative shirt was on display. The opposition had also had a poor start to the season, and their only result of note was a narrow win against fellow-strugglers Morelia last week. There was even a spirit of giving in CU as stands outside the ground collected foodstuffs for the victims of the hurricane in Veracruz.

Pumas were forced to make a change on the left as Chiapas was suspended after last week's red card, but more excitingly Bravo was given a chance up the middle with Dante López as Palencia began on the bench. Tellingly, despite comments during the week that he felt like a true Puma, Cacho did not feature at all. Atlante looked to strengthen their left-hand side, bringing in Cardaccio.

Despite the difficulties one or two supporters had getting in to the ground early, on the field Pumas were straight into their stride, with an attacking formation with Cortés and Rojas with a licence to get forward. It left the home team a little exposed in midfield, but they nevertheless began almost immediately to cause problems for the Atlante defence.

In fact the first real chance fell to Oscar Rojas after 5 minutes as he got away down the left and fired in a shot which Muñoz in the Atlante goal was happy to push away. With Pumas trying to push forward there were bound to be spaces and the visitors also crafted an opening, Bernal comfortably stopping an Amione effort. Bravo was playing the best he ever has for Pumas with sharp movement and good ball control. Dante was not always on the same wavelength, but as he tends to do he worked hard and he too created space. The two centre-backs Castillo and Torres were having a tricky time and Pumas finally got the goal their enterprise deserved.

On 22 minutes Leandro spread the ball right to Espinosa who cut inside Cardaccio and curled in a nice cross which Bravo expertly finished with a neat header. There was a slight suspicion the Argentinian may have been half a yard offside, but that did not dampen his celebrations as he knelt and calmly crossed himself.

Atlante bravely fought back and despite their nervousness at the back created a couple of half chances as Navarro shot over and Amione forced Bernal into another save. Bermúdez was starting to create some space for himself in the middle, and the "hobbit" tried a long range effort which flew wide. Nonetheless they almost conceded the second on the break as Bravo and Dante combined, Dante making his way to the bye-line before his ball back just evaded Bravo for the finish.

As the second half began Pumas redoubled their efforts to give the Centenary Celebrations a polish and spaces again began to open up. Only 8 minutes after the restart and Bravo had grabbed his second. Good persistence down the right from Dante, rewarded him with a shot which Muñoz saved with his face. Bravo was alert to pick up the rebound and he rounded Torres and shot low to the keeper's right to put Pumas 2-0 ahead.

Bravo, Dante and Rojas began to enjoy themselves and for a few brief minutes it seemed as thought there was the possibility of a rout. Even Cortés began to appear down the right hand side. It was then that Memo Vázquez made the decision that was to change the game. Quite why the Pumas coach thought that Bravo, who had been comfortably the best man on the pitch, needed to be replaced by the lumbering Palencia remains a mystery as Vázquez refused to comment after the game. What happened was that Palencia began to play much deeper than where Bravo had been, and there was immediately far less threat. The lack of ideas up front began to make itself felt as an uncertainty at the back. And now Leandro and Verón were pushing forward to bolster the confused attack.

Slowly Atlante began inching forward, at first with little conviction, but increasingly with confidence. After Bernal had conceded a corner after a poor clearance header by Palacios, the service by Bermúdez  led to Atlante's first. Another poor clearance by Palacios gave Amione a shooting chance and after that was blocked a series of rebounds saw Fano with the chance to poke the ball past Bernal.

Almost immediately the away team was level.  Amione pushed the ball into the area, but there was no immediate danger as he was headed towards the bye-line. Nevertheless Bernal made a mad rush out and almost threw himself at the player for a cast-iron penalty. There would certainly have been people in the stadium thinking that maybe it is time to give Alejandro Palacios another chance, as this was desperately unworthy of an experienced goalkeeper.. Fanu smashed an excellent penalty into the top corner and that was 2-2.

After that neither side looked like taking all three points, and Atlante looked happy enough with the draw. In the closing stages a number of their players went down injured or with cramp, Amione having to go off after he half-collapsed with no-one near him, and there was some concern for a time that there might be a serious problem. Pumas had few ideas in attack, and it was a mystery that Vázquez believed debutant Quiñones and young Carlos Orrantia were the answer at that stage.

All in all a disappointment for Pumas and a point gained (and the UNAM trophy) for Atlante, who move to 8 points, while Pumas just stay in the top half of the table with 12.

Pumas: Sergio Bernal; Efraín Velarde, Darío Verón, Marco Palacios, Fernando Espinosa; Israel Castro, Leandro Augusto, Óscar Rojas (Kevin Quiñónez, 80); Javier Cortés (Carlos Orrantia, 81), Martín Bravo (Francisco Palencia, 60), Dante López. Manager: Guillermo Vázquez.

Atlante: Moisés Muñoz; Andrés Carevic, Gerardo Castillo, Nicolás Torres (Alex Diego, 59), Fernando Navarro; Guerrero, Jerónimo Amione (Éder Mármol, 80), Adolfo Cardaccio (Arturo Muñoz, 66); Édgar Solís, Christian Bermúdez, Johan Fano. Manager: Eduardo Bacas.

Bravo (23rd minute) 1-0
Bravo (53) 2-0
Fano (72) 2-1
Fano (74, pen) 2-2

Pumas: yellow: Leandro (a tackle, pretty soft card), Espinosa (poorly timed tackle), Castro (tackle), Bernal (the penalty)
Atlante: yellow: Solis, Amione

Pumas Players Ratings

Bernal 5: Some poor punches in the first half, and made a real mess of comiing out when conceding the penalty.
Velarde 6: Did ok, especially when Pumas were on top.
Palacios 5 : His worst game for a while - too many mistakes, and partly at fault for both goals.
Verón 7: As solid as ever.
Espinosa 7: Keeps trying and good cross for the goal. Was unlucky to be booked.
Castro 6: Solid without ever suggesting he was going to control the game.
Leandro 6: Needs to be more influential, but fed the forwards well.
Rojas 7: The best I have seen from him. Unlucky not to score and some good running.
Cortés 5: How many games can he have where he goes missing?
Dante 8: Lots of movement, commitment and effort. Not a goalscorer but combines well with Bravo.
Bravo 9: An excellent performance. Not just the goals, but also pace skill and understanding. Why oh why did Vázquez bring him off?
Palencia 5: Ponderous and played far too deep.
Quiñones & Orrantia: On for too little time to make an impact.

Guillermo Vázquez 5: Picked an exciting lineup to start with, but his substitution of Bravo is the worst error of his time as Pumas manager. It may be that the decision to substitute Bravo was taken before the game or for non-footballing reasons, which clearly makes matters worse!

Elsewhere in Mexico
This week the Mexican Federation in its wisdom decided to take action over the 'scandal' involving the international squad's party at a Monterrey hotel two weeks ago. Deciding that some players (actually the majority of the squad) had broken the rules of the Federation regarding player conduct, they promptly fined all the players involved 50,000 pesos. In addition, purportedly because these players had invited "non-guests" to their hotel rooms, Carlos Vela and Efraín Juárez were banned from international football for 6 months.
Ever since the Federation announced its sanctions, senior players and journalists have been coming forward to criticize the decision.  Cuauhtémoc Blanco, Juan Francisco Palencia and Rafael Márquez were amongst the first to point out that the match was over and the players were essentially on their own time. Additionally the management had apparently agreed to the get-together. The two players banned are young and single and in any case, it was pointed out,  if there was any impropriety it is essentially between them and their conscience. The latest news is that the 13 sanctioned players have all asked not to be selected for the National Team (through a letter written to the Federation by Rafael Márquez). The arguments seem set to continue, but it would be out of character for the Mexican Federation to do a u-turn

Returning to action on the field, Mexican clubs had a tougher time this week in the Concacaf Champions League. The only of the four to win was Monterrey, who hosted Seattle Sounders and with 20 minutes left were two down. Only some excellent play from star substitute Humberto "Chupete" Suazo, who scored one and set up two (including a dubious penalty) allowed the home side to sneak home 3-2.

The other three teams were not so lucky. Cruz Azul managed a tame 0-0 draw at home to Toronto, while the alternative Toluca squad fell 2-1 in Honduras to Olímpia. A late strike by Andrés Mendoza saw Santos lose by the only goal to Columbus Crew in Ohio. All the Mexican teams remain in the top two places and well-placed to qualify.

On Friday night leaders Cruz Azul came upon a determined Necaxa team and lost 2-1 in the Estadio Victoria despite an injury-time headed equaliser by goalkeeper Jesús Corona. Referee Fabricio Morales disallowed the goal for a (non-existant) foul and then gave Corona his second booking after the distraught keeper protested. He now misses the América match.

Neither Monterrey nor Santos could take advantage of Cruz Azul's slip. There was more controversy as Querétaro thought they had grabbed a 1-0 lead over Monterrey when Sergio Ortemán's shot bounced down from the bar on or over the line. With the uncertainty the goal was not given and Monterrey held on for a 0-0 draw. Santos meanwhile lost in a thriller in the Azteca to América. Going ahead early on through a Benítez header, they saw a Matías Vuoso inspired attack pull América 3-1 up before edging back to 3-2 at half time. A more sedate second half saw no more goals and a victory for the 'Águilas'.

Jaguares notched their third victory in a row with a 2-1 home win over San Luis, the winner by Carlos Ochoa. Pachuca finally got a win with a 3-1 result at home to Estudiantes, while Alfredo "El Chango" Moreno returned to goalscoring form as he eased Atlas's relegation worries with the only goal in a 1-0 win over Puebla.

After their Saturday game was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch in Monterrey, Tigres and Chivas had another go on Sunday and played out a 1-1 draw. Francisco Acuña opened the scoring for the home side, and Miguel Ponce grabbed the equaliser for Chivas. Finally Toluca continued their good run with a 2-1 win in Morelia. Nestor Calderón taking advantage of a rebound to poke in the winner.

So Cruz Azul remain top of the General Classification and Group 3. Monterrey lead Group 1 from Santos, and Toluca remain ahead of América at the top of Group 2.

Next Up
More Concacaf Champions League games involving Cruz Azul v Arabe Unido of Panama, Monterrey at Saprissa, Toluca in Puerto Rico against the islanders, and Santos hosting Joe Public of Trinidad.

In next week's league games Pumas host Morelia in CU. The two derbies, Cruz Azul v América and Chivas v Atlas catch the eye, and Santos face a tough task against improving Toluca.

sábado, 18 de septiembre de 2010

Game 8: Estudiantes 2 - 2 Pumas


In an ill-tempered game in Zapopan Pumas and Estudiantes played out a 2-2 draw.

Pumas arrived in Zapopan full of optimism and determination, but left slightly disappointed after Argentinian Mauro Cejas scooped in an 85th minute equaliser to snatch a point. In a noisy Estadio Tres de Marzo Pumas paid the price for sitting on their lead, and for the unfortunate sending-off of goalscorer Jehu Chiapas (picture).

Pumas started the game with Fernando Espinoza at right-back, after Luis Fuentes's dismal showing last week. Similarly Dante López paid the price for his miss against San Luis with a place on the bench. Cacho and Palencia started up front. Meanwhile Estudiantes were playing their first game with new Uruguayan manager Eduardo Acevedo, and Fredy Bareiro replaced Samuel Ochoa in an otherwise unchanged line-up from the team that had beaten Atlante.

In front of a vociferous home support, Estudiantes started slightly the better.  But already Chiapas was showing plenty of intent and he created the first chance when he muscled into the area and looped a header towards goal which Mario Rodriguez was just able to tip onto the bar. A couple of minutes later Jehu was firing a long range effort towards goal, but Rodríguez got comfortably behind it.

At this stage Pumas began to play the ball around with some ease, and the home team struggled for possession. During this fight for the ascendancy after around ten minutes the first niggles began to appear, with fouls going in and shirts being tugged. Estudiantes were probably initially to blame, but Pumas clearly lost their cool and became involved in similar tactics. The rhythm and the ascendancy that they had created was gone, and Palacios found his name in the referee's book for complaining over-vociferously. It has to be said that Paul Delgadillo is a referee who is unable to deal with criticism on the field, and the tall Pumas defender really should have been aware of this.

With this lack of concentration, Estudiantes regained the initiative and then took the lead. After Diego Jiménez missed an opportunity for the home side from a Morales cross and Palencia gathered a yellow for a poor challenge, Jorge Zmogilny picked up a ball in the middle of the field and smashed a looping shot towards Bernal's goal. Poorly positioned and perhaps unsighted the veteran Pumas goalkeeper was unable to keep out a good strike and Estudiantes were one ahead. The impression was that Bernal should have done better but it was an impressive effort from "El ruso"(The Russian, although actually he is Argentinian).

Pumas appeared to wake up after the goal and began to push forward for the equaliser. Estudiantes seemed content to continue with the disruptive tactics that had gained the goal. After a clumsy challenge on Cacho, Daniel Cabral then proceeded to crawl all over the Pumas front man. Incensed, Cacho leapt to his feet and stood with his faces inches from Cabral, whereupon the former Argentinian youth international threw himself to the floor clutching his face, in a clear attempt to get Cacho into trouble. There was no contact and the referee was right on the spot, but you never know what is going to happen in these situations. Fortunately for Pumas, and for footballing sanity, Delgadillo strongly encouraged Cabral to get up and then showed him a yellow card.

Meanwhile the football began to flow end to end. Velarde had a long range shot which went just over and Cejas headed straight at Bernal after a Rafael Medina cross. The edge to the game had not gone however, and Cabral continued to be part of it. It may have been this which influenced Delgadillo in his decision to disallow an own goal by 'Pikolín' Palacios. Under pressure but with no desperate danger Palacios appeared to stumble and poked the ball past his own keeper, but the referee took the view that he had been pushed and the goal did not count.

It proved a turning point as minutes later Pumas were on level terms after a goalkeeping error from Rodríguez. Chiapas, once again involved, fired a speculative shot towards goal from about 30 yards. The shot had no great power but it was dipping and swerving. Nevertheless it was a surprise to everyone that Rodríguez made such a mess of it, as he allowed it to squirm under a weak dive and into the net.

Bernal looked like he was going for a third keeper's mistake as he made a meal of dealing with Morales's shot just before the break, but he somehow kept the ball out with his legs, and Pumas cleared the subsequent corner to go in to the break on level terms.

Memo Vázquez was either going with a pre-game plan, or realised that Palencia and Cacho were not providing much threat, but for whatever reason Martín Bravo appeared for Palencia at the start of the second half. Immediately he had an impact with two determined runs, and for once he was permitted to roam in his favoured central areas. This led almost immediately to Pumas going in front as Leandro threaded a pass down the inside-left channel and Bravo pushed the ball past the keeper at the near post to make it 2-1 to the visitors.

Almost immediately though, Estudiantes were almost back level as Espinoza headed a goal-bound Cabral effort off the line. And soon afterwards, with well over half an hour left to play, Pumas were down to ten. Chiapas has a disconcerting habit of doing something brilliant followed by something awful. And literally seconds after a sublime piece of skill had taken the ball round a defender, he was walking down the tunnel to get changed. It was an incredibly harsh red card, as after a tackle Chiapas inadvertently stepped on the prostrate Jiménez and the referee saw at as a stamp.

The logical move was to shore up the midfield to see out the game and Oscar Rojas came on for Cacho. However Pumas immediately began to put themselves under pressure as they put nine men (or 8 after Castro went off briefly for a nose-bleed after having the ball blasted in his face) behind the ball, and found little way to get the ball forward. In this situation Bravo is hardly the ideal frontman and perhaps Dante would have done better as a target man to hold the ball up. Vázquez went for bringing on midfielder David Cabrera for the largely ineffective Javier Cortés.

Estudiantes were now clearly on top, and despite being slightly anxious, they created a number of chances. Medina saw a shot thud into the bar with Bernal beaten while ex-Puma Rubens Sambueza sent  a header goalwards that Bernal was happy to cling on to. Nevertheless with the home side running out of ideas, Eduardo Acevedo now looked to freshen up his attack with Taufic Guarch coming on for Medina and Samuel Ochoa replacing Bareiro.

As they pushed forward more, Estudiantes left more space at the back and twice Bravo got away. The first time he hesitated and Cabral made a fine tackle to prevent the shot. The second resulted in Elgabry Rangel receiving the second direct red of the night as he tripped the young Argentinian. As the last man it was the right decision.

With just ten minutes left you felt that Pumas might hang on for the victory, but they continued to hang back and wait for the final whistle. With just five minutes of normal time left, they were made to pay. A Verón clearing header was needless directed downwards and struck an Estudiantes player. The ball fell fortuitously to Cejas who controlled and turned beautifully before shooting at goal, where Bernal could only parry into the bottom left-hand corner.

Pumas had a half chance to snatch a win in injury time as Velarde got down the left but Castro couldn't quite get onto his low cross. Nevertheless with one point each, Pumas move up to 11 points, and Estudiantes to 8.

Both teams were slightly upset with the refereeing, with Chiapas and Leaño commenting on it afterwards. Not surprisingly given the fines and bans handed out by the Mexican Federation, both managers were quiet on the issue.

Estudiantes: Rodríguez, Medina (Guarch 77), Jiménez, Leaño, Cabral, Zamogilny, Rangel, Morales, Sambueza (Ramírez 87), Cejas, Bareiro (Ochoa 83). Manager: Eduardo Acevedo

Pumas: Bernal, Espinoza, Palacios, Verón, Velarde, Cortés (Cabrera 69), Castro, Chiapas, Leandro, Cacho (Rojas 56), Palencia (Bravo 46). Manager: Guillermo Vázquez

Jorge Zamogilny (20th minute) 1-0
Jehu Chiapas (38) 1-1
Martín Bravo (47) 1-2
Mauro Cejas (85) 2-2

Estudiantes: yellow: Cejas (foul on Palacios), Cabral (foul on Cacho, or maybe faking...), Jiménez (talking back); red: Rangel (trip on Bravo - last man)
Pumas: yellow: Palacios (talking back), Palencia (poor tackle), Cortés (badly timed tackle); red: Chiapas (stepping on Jiménez - more than harsh)

Pumas Players Ratings

Bernal 5: Did ok but should have done better on the first goal.
Espinoza 7: A great improvement on Fuentes. Kept a lid on Sambueza and got forward too.
Palacios 6: Allowed himself to get too riled up and lost concentration.
Verón 7: Had a half decent shout for a penalty when pushed, but also spent too much time complaining.
Velarde 6: A more chirpy display: nice cross in the end that didn't quite come off.
Cortés 5: He is using up his chances. Another poor game.
Castro 6: Better than last week, a steady influence.
Chiapas 7: Involved in a lot of good Pumas play - did not deserve to be sent off, but clearly there will be no appeal.
Leandro 7: The arch-complainer, but amazingly didn't get a card. Some nice touches.
Cacho 6: More involved than usual, but didn't really look like scoring.
Palencia 5: A peripheral figure. Maybe his fatherly influence on the players is no longer enough.
Bravo 7: Lively and a well taken goal, although could maybe have had another had he not hesitated.
Rojas 5: Not much time to show what he can do.
Cabrera 5: Very quiet.

Guillermo Vázquez 7: Made good decisions calling up Espinoza and bringing on Bravo. I am not convinced with Cortés on the right however. Orrantia looked a better option before his bad game in Monterrey.

Elsewhere in Mexico
During the week where Carlos Salcido and Carlos Vela were cited by the British gutter press as having frolicked with 14 prostitutes and a transvestite after the international in Monterrey, there were also some footballing issues. In the Concacaf Champions league on Tuesday, Monterrey eased to a 2-0 win at home to Marathón of Honduras, while Santos conceded a late penalty to draw 2-2 in Guatemala against Municipal. Toluca beat the Puerto Rico Islanders 3-0 at home, while Cruz Azul crushed CD Arabe Unido 6-0, including a first-half hatrick from Javier Orozco. All four Mexican teams are now top of their respective groups.

The 'Gallos Blancos' of Querétaro came down to earth with a bump as they were easily defeated by Cruz Azul, 3-0 in the Estadio Azul. This was the 'Máquina's' fifth win in a row and it keeps them at the top of the general classification. An Othoniel Arce goal was enough to see San Luis continue their winning ways against Pachuca. Ecuadorian "el Chucho" Benítez of Santos continued his fine form at the top of the goal scoring table as he bagged his ninth of the season, scoring the winner in the 2-1 victory over Necaxa.

El "Chupete" Suazo remains hot on Benítez's heels after scoring his eighth of the season in Monterrey's 2-0 win over Atlas. Aldo de Nigris grabbed the other as the 'Regiomontanos' remain the last unbeaten team in the tournament. Chivas reject Carlos Ochoa returned to Guadalajara and put his former team to the sword, scoring all three in Jaguares 3-0 humiliation of the "Rebaño Sagrado". Meanwhile Atlante stopped their slide with a 2-0 home victory against Morelia, Carevic and Fano getting the goals.

In Sunday's big game Toluca took the honours 2-1 against América, who have not won in five years in the capital of the Estado de México. Héctor Mancilla opened the scoring for the home side, Vuoso equalised just after half time, but a Sinha free kick near the end was enough for the "diablos rojos". In the other Sunday game a hatrick from Brazilian Itamar Batista saw Tuca Ferretti's Tigres win 3-1 in Puebla.

After their wins Cruz Azul, Santos and Monterrey remain at the top of the table, while América lose leadership of Group 2 to their rivals Toluca.

Next Up
For those who are still interested in the Concacaf Champions league, Cruz Azul host Toronto on Tuesday, Monterrey play Seattle Sounders on Wednesday, and Toluca travel to face Olimpia on Thursday.

Pumas take on Atlante at home on Sunday. Other games include Cruz Azul travelling to face Necaxa on Friday, Querétaro facing another tough one at home to Monterrey, and an interesting clash in the Azteca on Sunday afternoon when América take on Santos. Pumas Morelos, after an away win against Atlante Neza, host La Piedad in Cuernavaca on Saturday afternoon.