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.

4 comentarios:

  1. At last! Pumas and Palace win at the same time! ver the moon. In both cases, it seems we had to hold on and, unusually, did so.

    Veron is a legend. We are so much more secure with him running the defense. Why Paraguay play him on the right is beyond me.

  2. Verón is indeed mighty important to Pumas. The reason he doesn't play in the centre for Paraguay is that Altolín Alcaraz (Wigan Athletic) and Paolo Da Silva (Sunderland) are very decent centre-backs.

  3. Sorry for the typo: that's Antolín Alcaraz

  4. Hey Hatstand ... I was very surprised not to hear from you last weekend ..... you ALWAYS get something you don't deserve at carrow road...