BRIDGEVIEW IL - JULY 17: Israel Castro #5 of Pumas UNAM passes the ball against Monarcas Morelia during a SuperLiga 2010 match at Toyota Park on July 17 2010 in Bridgeview Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Pumas UNAM Vs. Monarcas Morelia, 2011 Liguilla Final: Pumas Win Title On Javier Cortes Wonder Goal

Pumas are the 2011 Clausura Champions, thanks to an absolutely magnificent game-winning goal by Javier Cortes.

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Pumas UNAM Vs. Monarcas Morelia, 2011 Liguilla Final: Javier Cortes Wonder Goal Gives Pumas 3-2 Aggregate Win, Clausura Title

Thanks to an absolutely spectacular goal by Javier Cortes deep into the second half, Pumas UNAM are the winners of the 2011 Clausura and now the reigning champions of Mexico, thanks to their 2-1 win on the night and their 3-2 aggregate victory over Monarcas Morelia in the Liguilla final. The referee was the early story in the game, making some questionable decisions on penalty kicks, but there was nothing controversial about the winning goal, which was scored from open play in absolutely stunning fashion.

After a 1-1 draw in the first leg, Pumas looked to be in good shape to take the title at home. They opened the scoring in the 14th minute through a Francisco 'Paco' Palencia goal, a penalty kick given after a Federico Vilar foul on Dante Lopez. It looked like Morelia were about to find an equalizer just a minute later, but the referee did not give a penalty when Miguel Sabah was fouled in the box, and instead incorrectly booked Sabah for diving.

The visitors would find their equalizer, though, and it may have been a bit of a make-up call after Sabah was wrongly booked for diving. The Morelia striker went up for a 50-50 challenge with Alejandro Palacios, and the Pumas goalkeeper won the ball cleanly. However, the referee judged the incidental contact afterwards to be a foul, and Jaime Lozano stepped up and converted the penalty to equalize.

The winner came late, in the 77th minute, and it was an absolutely stunning goal. Javier Cortes, who had been looking dangerous for the entirety of the second half, beat three defenders on the right wing - including one with a fabulous nutmeg - before scoring from 10 yards out with an amazing narrow angle strike. It was a stunning goal for the 21-year-old, and a fitting winner for a final. 

This championship is the seventh in the history of Pumas UNAM, and it will be received as a well deserved one, as they were arguably the best team in Mexico for the entirety of the tournament.

For coverage of the 2011 Clausura's Liguilla final and content on all things Mexican football, head over to SB Nation's Mexican football blog, FMF State Of Mind.


Pumas UNAM Vs. Monarcas Morelia, 2011 Liguilla Final: 1-1 (2-2) Halftime

After one half of play in the second leg of the 2011 Clausura's Liguilla final, Pumas UNAM and Monarcas Morelia are tied at 1-1 on the night and 2-2 on aggregate, with both teams scoring their goals in this second leg on controversial penalty kicks.

The first penalty came in the 14th minute when Dante Lopez was released into the box by a great ball over the top of the defense after just barely managing to stay onside. Federico Vilar came off his line to challenge Lopez for the ball and appeared to make some contact with Lopez. The referee granted the penalty and gave Vilar a yellow card, but on the replay, Vilar did not appear to make significant contact with Lopez. Fernando Palencia stepped up to take the penalty kick, and he converted it.

Just a couple of minutes later, Morelia would have a penalty shout of their own, and once again the referee would get the decision wrong. Miguel Sabah was clearly hauled down in the box, but instead of being given a penalty, he was shown a yellow card for diving.

In the 24th minute, Morelia would get a make-up call. Antonio Palacios and Sabah went for a 50-50 ball in the box which Palacios won before making incidental contact with Sabah. The referee judged this to be worthy of a penalty and a yellow card for Palacios, and Jaime Lozano converted to tie up the final at 2-2 on aggregate.

For coverage of the 2011 Clausura's Liguilla final and content on all things Mexican football, head over to SB Nation's Mexican football blog, FMF State Of Mind.


Pumas UNAM Vs. Monarcas Morelia, 2011 Liguilla Final: Jaime Lozano Penalty Locks Up Tie At 2-2

Oh man, this referee really is having an absolute shocker. The first penalty, given to Dante Lopez of Pumas, was probably not a penalty. Shortly afterwards, Miguel Sabah was booked for diving when he was obviously hauled down in the box. Now, Morelia have been the beneficiaries of a make-up call as the referee has granted them a penalty, which Jaime Lozano converted.

In the 24th minute, Miguel Sabah and Antonio Palacios went for the same ball in the box. Palacios won the battle cleanly, then made incidental contact with Sabah. In the judgment of the referee, whose judgment has not been very good today, this constituted a foul and Palacios was shown a yellow card.

Lozano stepped up and converted with a cheeky little slow dribbler, and as a result, Morelia and Pumas are now level on aggregate. Hopefully, with the score now level, this game can stop being about the referee and the better team can go out and win.


Pumas UNAM Vs. Monarcas Morelia, 2011 Liguilla Final: Paco Palencia Penalty Has Pumas Up On Aggregate

Well, that didn't take too long. After just 14 minutes, Pumas have taken a 2-1 aggregate lead in the Liguilla final, thanks to a penalty kick by the 38-year-old veteran Fernando 'Paco' Palencia. Pumas were looking like the much more assertive team early in the match, and though this penalty might have been a wee bit soft, it's hard to say their goal wasn't deserved.

The move was started by a great through ball over the top of the defense to Dante Lopez, who barely stayed onside. He surged into the penalty area uncontested and was met by Federico Vilar, who dived for the ball. He appeared to make minimal contact with Lopez at best, but the penalty was given. In the judgment of the referee, Lopez was going away from the goal, and therefore, a clear goal scoring opportunity was not denied and no red card was shown.

Paco Palencia stepped up to the spot and he converted the penalty brilliantly, giving Pumas a 1-0 lead on the night and a 2-1 aggregate lead.


Monarcas Morelia Vs. Pumas UNAM, 2011 Liguilla Final, Final Score: 1-1 Full Time

Pumas UNAM will be favorites in the return leg of the Liguilla final, but thanks to a goal by Joao Rojas, Monarcas Morelia are still very much in the tie. Fransisco 'Paco' Palencia was the man who opened the scoring for Pumas, putting Morelia into a serious hole, but Rojas saved the day, and he's given his team a very good chance to win the title in Mexico City on Sunday.

The first half was generally poor and lacking in true scoring opportunities. Pumas did not pass the ball particularly well, while Morelia lacked creativity in the final third and often made poor decisions. When the halftime whistle blew, most people were both happy to hear it and excited for what would come after some halftime adjustments.

While the second half also started a bit slow, the football was of a much higher quality for the first 15 minutes of the second half than in the entire first half. On the 60th minute, Pumas introduced Juan Cacho and Leandro Augusto into the game, changing things considerably.

Though they were not directly involved in Paco Palencia's opener, Pumas played much better for the seven minutes between when they came on and when Palencia scored, and there's no doubt that their introduction into the game had something to do with the goal. The finish itself was all Palencia, though, as he cut onto his right foot from the left hand side of the box and ripped a great right-footed shot into the top corner.

Pumas' lead was short lived, though, as Rojas equalized five minutes later with a fantastic effort, running through the Pumas defense before finishing precisely with a low shot that got by Alejandro Palacios.

For coverage of the 2011 Clausura's Liguilla final and content on all things Mexican football, head over to SB Nation's Mexican football blog, FMF State Of Mind.


Monarcas Morelia Vs. Pumas UNAM, 2011 Liguilla Final: Joao Rojas Equalizes With Goal For Morelia

When Hugo Drougett left for Cruz Azul, Monarcas Morelia looked like they were going to struggle to replace him. Enter Joao Rojas from Emelec, an affordable replacement who was a fairly unknown quantity to people who follow Mexican football. He's had an absolutely stellar season for Morelia and he's raised his profile even further, scoring the equalizer for Morelia in the Liguilla final against Pumas UNAM, bringing them right back into the game.

Things looked dire for Morelia when Paco Palencia scored the opener, but Pumas' lead lasted just five minutes. On a great individual effort, Joao Rojas surged past the Pumas defense and placed a fantastic shot past Alejandro Palacios, tying the match and the tie at 1-1. We're now right back where we started, and though Morelia have to score another goal to feel truly comfortable headed into the second leg in Mexico city, Rojas' equalizer was certainly a fantastic start.

For coverage of the 2011 Clausura's Liguilla final and content on all things Mexican football, head over to SB Nation's Mexican football blog, FMF State Of Mind.


Monarcas Morelia Vs. Pumas UNAM, 2011 Liguilla Final: Fransisco 'Paco' Palencia Goal Puts Pumas 1-0 Up

Pumas UNAM have taken the lead away to Monarcas Morelia in the first leg of the Liguilla final, putting Morelia in some seriously hot water and giving themselves an absolutely massive advantage. Fransisco 'Paco' Palencia, the ageless wonder was the man who scored the goal, putting in a stunning strike from 20 yards out. 

Lacking a traditional central playmaker, Pumas often rely on their forwards to create their own shots, and Palencia did that brilliantly, just like he's been doing for well over a decade at this point. Cutting onto his right foot, moving to the right side of the box from the center, Palencia created a shooting lane for himself and absolutely ripped a right-footed shot to the top left corner of the goal to give Pumas the lead.

Though they were not directly involved in the goal, the introductions of Leandro Augusto and Juan Cacho into the game have tipped the scales towards Pumas. Their influence has allowed them to have more of the ball, and they have a goal as a result.


Monarcas Morelia Vs. Pumas UNAM, 2011 Liguilla Final: Pumas Sub In Leandro Augusto, Juan Cacho

After 60 minutes of struggling to keep possession and create scoring chances, Pumas UNAM are finally getting aggressive and going out to win the first leg of the Liguilla final against Monarcas Morelia. Leandro Augusto, who has been injured but is one of Pumas' best players, and Juan Cacho, who was benched as a tactical decision, have entered the game. 

Martin Bravo and David Cabrera were the players who exited, and both of them were fairly ineffective in the first 60 minutes of the match. Cacho had a very good season in the Primera, and Augusto has been one of the best central midfielders in the Primera for ten years. Pumas have not been able to dictate the pace of play so far, and he should help them do that.

Augusto's presence will also free up Israel Castro to do more, as his role is to hold his position in the midfield when Augusto isn't in the game. Thanks to Augusto's positional discipline, Castro can get forward, make late runs into the box, and look for shooting opportunities. He's much better as a box to box midfielder than a pure defensive midfielder, so look for Pumas to pick it up in the final 30 minutes.

For coverage of the 2011 Clausura's Liguilla final and content on all things Mexican football, head over to SB Nation's Mexican football blog, FMF State Of Mind.


Monarcas Morelia Vs. Pumas UNAM, 2011 Liguilla Final: 0-0 Halftime

After the first half of the Ligulla final in Morelia, things are no closer to being decided. Pumas UNAM and Monarcas Morelia are both emphasizing their defense and neither team has created quality chances thus far, and as a result the match is tied at 0-0 at halftime. If the score holds, it would certainly benefit Pumas, who play the second leg at home in Mexico city.

Morelia have been the slightly better side and have had more goal opportunities, but they're making a mess of all of their chances. The few times they've gotten the ball into dangerous positions they've made poor decisions, and they've also wasted other moves with low quality long shots. Their lack of creativity, patience, and good decision making around the box has been their downfall thus far.

Pumas are also in need of an improved presence in the midfield, and they could seriously use the addition of Leandro Augusto in the middle. He's recently come back from injury and is not 90 minutes fit, but he probably has what it takes to go 45 tonight.

For coverage of the 2011 Clausura's Liguilla final and content on all things Mexican football, head over to SB Nation's Mexican football blog, FMF State Of Mind.


Monarcas Morelia Vs. Pumas UNAM, 2011 Liguilla Final: Morelia Dictating Play, No Quality Chances Yet

In the early going from Morelia, it's been a close fought game between Pumas UNAM and Monarcas Morelia in the Liguilla final, but a very cagey one that hasn't produced much in the way of chances. Without Leandro Augusto in the center of midfield for Pumas, Morelia have been able to dictate the play. Their midfield pressing has been impressive, and their passing is much better than that of Pumas so far.

However, Pumas are defending extremely well, not allowing Morelia to create quality chances. Instead of staying patient, keeping the ball, and trying to break Pumas down, Morelia have been extremely impatient. They're trying desperate long shots and lofted balls into the box, none of which have resulted in any kind of significant scoring opportunity. 

Going forward Pumas haven't created much so far, which is probably due to their lack of a creative presence in midfield. Often their combination of great forward play and great defense covers up that deficiency, but it's looking like an issue early on.

For coverage of the 2011 Clausura's Liguilla final and content on all things Mexican football, head over to SB Nation's Mexican football blog, FMF State Of Mind.


Monarcas Morelia Vs. Pumas UNAM, 2011 Liguilla Final: Lineups

Two legs, 180 minutes, one winner. The champion of the 2011 Mexican Primera Division Clausura will be decided in the Liguilla final between Monarcas Morelia and Pumas UNAM beginning tonight with Pumas in Morelia for the final's first leg. Pumas are the second-seeded team, having defeated Monterrey and Chivas Guadalajara to get to the final. Morelia are the third-seeded team, having defeated Atlante and Cruz Azul to get here.

For Morelia to get the result they want at home, they will need a sterling performance from Elias Hernandez. He has the ability to make incredible and almost unbelievable plays and with Pumas strong at the back, Morelia might need a few plays like that. Pumas will depend on Francisco Palencia, the midfielder who refuses to age and amazingly can still dictate tempo in the midfield as if it were 1999.

Monarcas Morelia lineup (4-4-2): Vilar; Aldrete, Huiqui, Arias, Perez; Rojas, Ramirez, Gastelum, Hernandez; Perez, Marquez

Pumas UNAM lineup (3-4-1-2): A. Palacios; Fuentes, M. Palacios, Veron; Velarde, Cabrera, Castro, Cortes; Palencia; Bravo, Lopez


Monarcas Morelia Vs. Pumas UNAM, 2011 Liguilla Final: By The Numbers

Expectations are high as Monarcas Morelia and Pumas UNAM face off in the Liguilla final of the 2011 Clausura. Both teams play wide-open styles, which should lead to some high-scoring games. FMF State of Mind, SB Nation's Mexican soccer blog, takes a look at some of the numbers, with one in particular sticking out:

8 -- Total games combined suspension for Morelia manager Tomas Boy and veteran player Miguel Sabah, following the late game brawl this past weekend against Cruz Azul. Boy's five-game suspension means Morelia will play in the final without their manager on the sideline. The team will also be without the veteran leadership of Sabah, who really deserves to be on the field. It's still unclear what exactly Sabah did during the skirmish to warrant being sent off, let alone the corresponding three-game suspension. Morelia certainly will miss his presence, but it won't be as big a loss as it may have been earlier in the year. Battling injury, Sabah has not started Morelia's last four matches, and the team has certainly proved they can get the job done without him when necessary.


Monarcas Morelia Vs. Pumas UNAM, 2011 Liguilla Final: Preview

In a league well noted for it's incredible unpredictability, the Mexican Primera has been surprisingly devoid of surprises - as far as the match results go at least - in the 2011 Clausura's Liguilla. Sure, the brawl at the end of Cruz Azul and Monarcas Morelia's tie was surprising, but Morelia's narrow win in a game where Cruz Azul's defense collapsed certainly was not. Pumas UNAM were the favorites going into Liguilla and they have reached the final, as expected. Will the major upset finally come?

And no, Chivas de Guadalajara defeating UANL Tigres doesn't count. That was just the continuation of the Superlider Curse, and Chivas were obviously much more talented than the average No. 8 seed. The media seems to have reached a general consensus that this will be an excellent final, but that Pumas will pull it out. Once again, no major upset. 

However, everything that Morelia has done up to this point has been an upset, really. They were thought to have good shots at defeating Club America and Cruz Azul simply because of their regular season results. Coming into this season, they were thought of as a fringe Liguilla team. Personally, I didn't see them getting in. In the Apertura 2010, they were poor. They made Liguilla in the previous tournament, but they had 10 goals dropped on them by Santos Laguna. They were very underwhelming in their last appearance in Copa Libertadores. Last season, if Miguel Sabah couldn't score, no one could score. Their attack was entirely anemic.

Then, others upped their games. Sabah hasn't been great in this tournament (and will be suspended for the final anyway), but Elias Hernandez has been stunning, has have Joao Rojas and Rafael Marquez Lugo. The Morelia attack has finally come alive, seemingly out of nowhere. In this tournament, including playoffs, Lugo has 13 goals. In the last tournament, he scored two.

Pumas are not without a great attack of their own, though. The beauty of what they do is that it is very much about the chemistry between the players and who is hot and/or left unmarked by the defense at any given moment. Juan Cacho, Martin Bravo, Dante Lopez, and Paco Palencia are all great players, and depending on the situation, any three of them can be on the field at one time. Javier Cortes, an attack-minded midfielder, also helps with the goal scoring duties. They are truly a group that is bigger than the team.

Both midfields and defenses are solid, but the Pumas back line is where they really have an edge on Morelia. Pumas can play with a back three or a back four, and their three mainstay defenders are stellar players. Marco Antonio Palacios, an imposing figure, mans the middle. Dario Veron has the size, athletic ability, and technical skills to play either central defense or right fullback, making him a perfect fit to play as a right central defender in a fluid three man back line. Efrain Velarde is much more of a left back than a left sided central defender, but he has proven competent in the role when Pumas plays a back three.

The teams are fairly even in attack and midfield, but the difference in this tie should be the versatility and talent that Pumas has in defense. Morelia start the tie with the home leg, and they will have to win outright to avoid feeling like they have already played themselves out of the tie.

For coverage of the 2011 Clausura's Liguilla final and content on all things Mexican football, head over to SB Nation's Mexican football blog, FMF State Of Mind.

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