Mexican Primera, 2011 Clausura, Liguilla: Morelia, Monterrey Notch Wins On Thursday Night

After Cruz Azul and Chivas notched home wins, Monterrey and Club America try to keep up the trend against UNAM Pumas and Monarcas Morelia.

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Club America Vs. Monarcas Morelia, 2011 Liguilla: Morelia Secure Key Away Win

After the first leg of their Liguilla quarterfinal tie, Monarcas Morelia have to feel good about their chances of progressing to the next round. Though a road win is hardly unexpected for the best road team in Mexico, they will still be proud of their 2-1 win over Club America tonight. While Morelia are actually worse at home than they are on the road, they have to feel like they have a very good chance of advancing after pulling off this result.

They went into halftime with a 1-0 lead, thanks to a header by Manuel Perez. They continued to assert themselves in the second half, and their hard work paid off in the 61st minute with a great long range goal by Rafael Marquez Lugo, who hit a low shot past Memo Ochoa to his far post from 25 yards away. Ochoa got his fingertips to the shot, but wasn't able to push it wide of the post.

America got back into the tie in the 69th minute thanks to a nice goal by Daniel Marquez Palacios. His strike ensures that America still have a chance to advance in Morelia, and tonight's visitors will now have to continue to work at home.


Club America Vs. Monarcas Morelia, 2011 Liguilla: Morelia Lead At Halftime

Monarcas Morelia have the Mexican Primera's best away record, and they're showing why so far. Despite some solid attacks from Club America, they've held off the hosts while scoring a goal of their own, and they lead 1-0 at halftime of the first leg of their 2011 Clausura Liguilla clash.

Manuel Perez is the man who scored the goal, putting in a header from a Joao Rojas cross, partially assisted by some sloppy marking from America. America have been the more aggressive team and have created more shots, but their finishing thus far has left something to be desired. Just a couple of minutes before the Perez goal, Vicente Sanchez has a great chance to put his team up, but his shot was cleared off the line.

The good news for America is that the away game isn't a true away game, per se, as Morelia-America games in Morelia always feature a large number of America fans. Additionally, Morelia has actually been worse at home than on the road this year. Still, they would like at least an equalizer to feel good about their chances going forward.


Monterrey Vs. Pumas UNAM, 2011 Liguilla: 3-1 Full Time, Rayados Stun Visitors

Monterrey have put together a fantastic performance tonight at home, defeating UNAM Pumas 3-1 in the first leg of their tie in the 2011 Clausura's Liguilla playoffs. With all of Luis Peres, Aldo De Nigris, Sergio Santana, and Jesus Zavala unavailable, Pumas were expected to be superior to their opponents, especially in the center of midfield. In the end, that was not the case at all, and the Rayados were the better side throughout the proceedings.

The home side held a 2-0 lead at halftime, thanks to goals by Osvaldo Martinez and Walter Ayovi, who both scored on brilliant long range strikes. The Rayados strengthened their lead just after halftime, in the 47th minute, as Humberto Suazo tapped in a Martinez cross. Going into desperation mode, Pumas played slightly better after that. Martin Bravo scored in the 69th minute to give them hope going into the second leg, but they face a serious uphill battle.

Jehu Chiapas was sent off in the 85th minute for a second yellow card offense, and Suazo almost made their task impossible when he hit the crossbar, narrowly missing the goal on the ensuing free kick. Without Chiapas for the return leg, their task will be considerably tougher.


Monterrey Vs. Pumas UNAM, 2011 Liguilla: Rayados Lead At Halftime

Surprisingly, Monterrey have jumped out of the gate guns blazing, surprising UNAM Pumas with two early goals. The visitors found their footing as the first half wore on, but the Rayados' fast start has them ahead 2-0 on the scoreboard at the break. Despite their injuries and lack of numbers in the center of midfield, they've overrun Pumas for parts of this half, and their lead is well deserved.

Winger Osvaldo Martinez, who has curiously not been first choice in this tournament, shocked Pumas with his 10th minute goal. The Paraguayan has been fantastic since arriving in Monterrey, but Walter Ayovi and Neri Cardozo have been preferred when everyone is healthy. However, all three are on the pitch tonight thanks to injuries and suspensions, and Ayovi made a case for his continued inclusion in the team in the 20th minute. Picking up a lay-off from Humberto Suazo, Ayovi made space for himself before scoring on a stunning 25 yard strike. It's his second fantastic goal in five days, as his 50 yard bomb this weekend is what got Monterrey into Liguilla in the first place.


Monterrey Vs. Pumas UNAM, 2011 Liguilla: Key Absences Could Prove Too Much For Monterrey - FMF State Of Mind

Monterrey are on the tips of everyone's tongues these days thanks to their success in the CONCACAF Champions League final, triumphing over MLS side Real Salt Lake. However, despite the noise being made about Monterrey in the media (and the presence of Chilaean great Humberto Suazo), they're not actually that good a team for the FMF, and they're certainly not favourites in their match against Pumas UNAM in their playoff tie.

According to Kevin McCauley at SB Nation's Mexican futbol site FMF State of Mind, the absence of two key players could make this just too great a task for Monterrey:

Monterrey's absences are massive and Pumas should have a serious advantage as a result. Jesus Zavala will miss out on the first leg due to suspension, while Luis Perez and Aldo de Nigris will be out due to injury. The former two absences are particularly concerning, as they put a lot of stress on the potential starting central midfielders for Monterrey.

Pumas are a very good side and furthermore they're in good form and well rested -  the CCL Champions will likely have a very tough time even on the home leg. On the plus side, the two sides should be closely enough matched at the Estadio Technologico to give us a close, tense game.


Cruz Azul Vs. Atlante, 2011 Liguilla: 2-1 Full Time, Chaco Gimenez Puts On A Show, Cesar Villaluz Misses Big

Cruz Azul have secured a 2-1 home win over Atlante to take a small advantage into the return leg of their Ligulla tie this weekend, but they could have had a lead that was considerably bigger. Cristian 'Chaco' Gimenez was brilliant on the night, but he missed a penalty in the second half that could have put his team up 3-1. Cruz Azul missed another opportunity to go up late, when Cesar Villaluz missed an absolute sitter from inside the six yard box in the 88th minute.

Atlante scored the opener in the 7th minute, stunning the crowd at Estadio Azul. Picking up a cross from Arturo Muñóz, Giancarlos Maldonado finished hard past Jesus Corona, giving his team a surprising 1-0 lead. He was answered quickly by Chaco Gimenez, though, who hit a thunderous drive into the back of the net from 25 yards out after picking up the ball from Javier Aquino.

Just seconds after the halftime whistle, Chaco completed his brace, scoring an eerily similar driven goal just seconds after the start of the first half. It's the kind of goal he's gotten used to scoring over the years, and it's why Diego Maradona once included him in a national team squad, a rarity for an Argentinian playing in Mexico.

In the 66th minute, Cruz Azul were granted a penalty and Muñoz was shown his second yellow card for a "foul" on Waldo Ponce. Upon replay, it was obvious that Ponce went down without being contacted at all. Chaco stepped up to take the penalty kick, but justice was served as he was denied by a brilliant save by Moises Muñoz.

Cruz Azul had yet another chance to extend their lead in the 88th minute, but could not capitalize. After a counter-attack, the ball fell right at the feet of Cesar Villaluz inside of the six yard box. Vlllaluz failed to control it at first, then put a poor effort right off of Muñoz. Emmauel Villa attempted to follow up the chance with a shot on the rebound, but his effort sailed into Row Z.

A 2-1 home win is a good enough result for Cruz Azul to feel comfortable going to Cancun, but they might live to regret not cashing in on their other two missed golden opportunities.


Cruz Azul Vs. Atlante: Lineups

Atlante travel to Cruz Azul hoping to pull off an upset at the Estadio Azul, but they'll probably have to have a good dose of luck to come away with a positive result. There's still no better time than now to take on Azul, however, as they've been scuffling lately thanks to injuries and a loss of momentum. Atlante can beat them, but it'll take a serious effort from playmaker Christian Bermudez for them to have a hope.

Cruz Azul (5-4-1): Jesus Corona; Rogelio Martinez, Adrian Cortes, Waldo Ponce, Julio Juarez, Nestor Aruajo; Gonzalo Pineda Christian Giminez, Marcelo Balzaretti, Javier Carmona; Emmanuel Villa.

Substitutes: Yosgart Gutierrez, Horacio Cervantas, Cesar Villaluz, Allam Huerta, Hector Gutierrez, Isaac Romo, Javier Penuelas.

Atlante (4-4-2): Moises Rodriguez; Diego Ordaz, Ever Marmol, Arturo Munoz, Fernando Navarro; Alex Diego, Luis Zumaran, Christian Bermudez, Jose Rodriguez; Francisco Fonseca, Giancarlos Maldonado.

Substitutes: Sergio Perez, Andres Carevic, Sonny Guardarrama, Jorge Hernandez, Matias Cardaccio, Mario Ortiz, Jeronimo Cervallos.


Chivas Vs. Tigres, 2011 Liguilla: 3-1 Full Time, Goats Roll

Chivas Guadalajara got the best result that anyone has gotten all season against UANL Tigres, defeating them 3-1 at Estadio Omnilife in the first leg of their Liguilla quarterfinal clash. Tigres have not given up three goals at any point this season, so even with Chivas's improved offense in this tournament, this result will come as a shock to most who follow the Mexican Primera.

Chivas lead 1-0 at halftime, but Tigres quickly brought a goal back, as Jesus Molina scored on a diving header on the corner kick in the 48th minute. The man marking him on the corner was Miguel Ponce, the out of form defender who came in for the injured Jonny Magallon.

After that, it was all Chivas. In the 58th minute, Mario De Luna restored their lead by putting in a fantastic header off of a corner kick. Minutes later, in the 65th, Ponce redeemed himself for his poor marking on Tigres' goal and drew a penalty kick, which was then converted by Marco Fabian. Fabian had a couple of near misses on great shots late in the game, and Chivas very well could have ended with more than three goals.

A 3-1 deficit is hard to overcome in a home and away series, but in the Liguilla, it's hardly impossible. Chivas still have plenty of work to do on the road this weekend.


Chivas Vs. Tigres, 2011 Liguilla: Omar Arellano Goal Has Goats Up At Halftime

Chivas Guadalajara have the lead that they need at home, as they're up 1-0 on UANL Tigres after the first half of the first leg of their 2011 Clausura Liguilla quarterfinal tie. Tigres seemed content to sit back and wait for Tigres to make a mistake for most of the first half, and that strategy has come back to bite them. 

Marco Fabian, who has been in stellar form in this tournament, was the man who set up the goal. Out on the right wing, he absolutely skinned Jose Torres Nilo, Tigres' talented left back, before putting a floating cross into the box. Omar Arellano, who is known much more for his hold up play and his ability to set up his teammates, was the man who found the ball in the box, and he nodded it in to give Chivas the lead.

Things looked dire for the goats when Jonny Magallon went down with an injury, but after this goal, their fans might be a little more optimistic than they were when their star defender came off.


Chivas Vs. Tigres, 2011 Liguilla: Jonny Magallon Re-Injured, Subbed Off

Jonny Magallon's return from injury was short lived. The center back missed the last month with an injury and within 20 minutes he was back off of the field injured. It is a major hit for Chivas who are the eighth seed in the Mexican Primera Liguilla and are trying to upset top-seeded Tigres. The Goats will have to go through the rest of the first leg without Magallon and stop the explosive Tigres attack, while also finding a goal because if they are to knock off Tigres in this two-legged tie they will almost certainly need a win at home tonight.

Miguel Angel Ponce has come on to replace Magallon, a major downgrade for Chivas. Magallon is one of Mexico's finer defenders, while Ponce has looked nothing of the sort in his time replacing the injured Magallon. This also raises the question about whether Magallon will be back for the second leg. Without Magallon, it's hard to imagine Chivas getting a result away to Tigres.


Chivas Vs. Tigres, 2011 Liguilla: Lineups

The early match of tonight's Mexican Primera Liguilla action is about to get underway and the lineups are in. Chivas gets a gigantic boost with Jonny Magallon coming back from injury, which they need if they are to take down top-seeded Tigres. Chivas' bid to upset Tigres begins tonight at Estadio Omnilife, where getting a good result at home is a must.

Tigres will have the advantage out wide and are expected to get past eighth-seeded Chivas and move on to the semifinals, but the Goats are certainly capable of pulling the upset. For Tigres, they can certainly go to Guadalajara tonight and get a win, setting them up beautifully for the second leg of this two-legged tie at home.

Chivas Guadalajara lineup (4-4-2): Michel; Reynoso, Magallon, Esparza, de Luna; Araujo, Fabian, Baez, Medina; Torres, Arellano

UANL Tigres lineup (4-4-1-1): Reyes; Ayala, Juninho, Torres, Jimenez; Alvarez, Molina, Toledo, Danilinho; Lobos; Mancilla

For all coverage of the Mexican Primera and the Liguilla, check out SB Nation's Mexico football blog, FMF State of Mind.


Chivas Vs. Tigres, 2011 Liguilla: No. 8 Seed Chivas Could Surprise - FMF State Of Mind

It's the start of the FMF playoffs, and we're going to kick off with the top-seeded UANL Tigres vs. eighth seed Chivas Guardalajara. We might normally expect the #8 vs. #1 seeds to be something approaching a rout, but things may not be as easy as they seem for Tigres, who are coming off a hugely impressively regular season.

At least, that's according to Eben Lehman, who runs SB Nation's Mexican Futbol blog FMF State of Mind. Eben claims that despite the huge difference in results between the sides, Chivas and Tigres actually match up fairly well, having a stout defence and greatly improved attack from the last time the two teams met up (a 0-0 draw at Chivas). Could we see an upset, then? It's apparently not out of the question.

If the Chivas defense can limit the scoring opportunities of Hector Mancilla, Lucas Lobos, and the rest of the Tigres attack, they will have more than a chance. This is certainly doable, because for all their talent on offense, Tigres frequently have trouble putting the ball in the back of the net. Chivas played a great match this past weekend, and look to be in better form than their record indicates heading into this series... If Fabian can maintain his impressive scoring form, Chivas just may resurrect the ghosts of the old superleader curse for one more season.

Tigres are the better side, but when two teams with impressive defences come together, goals are going to be at a premuim, and that means lucky may very well rule the day. That's not enough to give Chivas a good chance of advancing, but they have hope, and have it in spades.


Mexican Primera, 2011 Clausura: Liguilla Playoffs Quarterfinal Preview

The Liguilla playoffs for the Mexican Primera's 2011 Clausura start Wednesday night, and the late game, in particular, is a fantastic matchup. All four ties should be closely contested, as the Liguilla always is in Mexico, but there are a couple of ties that demand attention more than the other two, as the top two seeds both face very strong opposition. C.D. Guadalajara, better known as Chivas takes on UANL Tigres tonight in the late game, right after Cruz Azul takes on Atlante. On Thursday night, CF Monterrey hosts Pumas UNAM and Club America hosts Monarcas Morelia.

Ties in the Mexican Liguilla are home and away aggregate ties. The return legs take place on Saturday and Sunday this week. In the first round, there is no extra time; if the score is tied after 180 minutes, the higher seeded team advances.

Chivas Guadalajara Vs. UANL Tigres

Wednesday, 8 pm ET

Chivas had plenty of opportunities to capture the third seed in Liguilla, but a dip in form has seen them fall all the way down to eighth. However, they have been without defender Jonny Magallon since the Super Clasico, and his return should upgrade their defense considerably. Between him, Marco Fabian's wonder goals, and Erick Torres's great play up front, Chivas have all the tools to pull off an upset of the No. 1 overall seed.

Tigres missed Liguilla last tournament, and as a result, they went crazy in the transfer market this January and gave their roster a complete makeover. Their moves have paid dividends, as new additions Hector Mancilla and Danilinho have been great for the club. Additionally, their defense is the best in Mexico, and they're the first team to allow nine goals or less in a tournament in its current format. While Chivas have all the tools for an upset, it would be a reasonably large one.

Cruz Azul Vs. Atlante

Wednesday, 10 pm ET

Injuries and generally poor play have ravaged Cruz Azul in the latter part of the Clausura, as they went from competing with Pumas at the top of Group 3 to not even getting an automatic Liguilla place as Morelia passed them in the table. They have improved their defense from the previous two tournaments and they have some serious firepower in Cristian Gimenez and Emmanuel Villa, but injuries to Hugo Drougett and their captain Gerardo Torrado are likely to slow them down considerably.

Atlante have been serious over-achievers in this tournament, but their run has still been very impressive so far. Their starting defense is very solid and quite underrated, but they are lacking depth and could be crippled by one injury. Christian Bermudez has been Atlante's best player this season, scoring nine goals while creating for his teammates. If the side from Cancun are going to pull an upset, the attacking midfielder is going to have to be at his best.

CF Monterrey Vs. Pumas UNAM

Thursday, 8 pm ET

After sitting outside of Liguilla places for most of the season, Monterrey have played themselves into the playoffs, thanks to a ridiculous stoppage time winner by Walter Ayovi last weekend against Chivas. However, thanks to their long run in CONCACAF Champions League which resulted in a lot of fixture congestion, they've got some serious fitness problems. Both Luis Ernesto Perez and Aldo de Nigris look likely to miss out due to injury, and on an unrelated note, Jesus Zavala is unavailable for the first leg due to yellow card accumulation.

This should allow Israel Castro, Pumas' great holding midfield player, to dominate the first leg. Interestingly, due to injuries and suspensions, Monterrey will feel like they can win away if they can manage a draw at home. Pumas are a tough team to contain, though, as they are not reliant on one particular attacker. They have a variety of guys that they can play up top, so they'll always have a couple of fit players in good form up front. Their defense is also extremely talented, and they will prove tough for Monterrey to break down.

Club America Vs. Monarcas Morelia

Thursday, 10 pm ET

After a heartbreaking loss on Tuesday night against Santos FC in Copa Libertadores, they might have trouble getting themselves up for a Liguilla match against Morelia just two days later. Though their finishing against Santos was poor, they could have scored six goals easily, and their performances in their last two matches against Santos and Pumas have been admirable. They've definitely got Morelia beat when it comes to raw talent, but their fixture congestion might be their undoing.

Coming into Liguilla as the third seed, Morelia are serious overachievers, much like Atlante. it's tough to pinpoint what has made them so good in this tournament, but their results don't lie. Though Miguel Sabah has experienced a drop-off in form, Elias Hernandez has picked up the slack, and he's had the best tournament of his career in the Primera. Adrian Aldrete is also a solid young talent, but otherwise, this is a team that is more about the sum of its parts than individuals. Supposedly, according to all kinds of old journalistic cliches, these are the kinds of teams that win championships.

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