By Dan Price
Despite the penultimate round of games now being completed in the Liga MX, we are still no closer to knowing which side will be this season’s Super Lider or which side will be playing their football in the Ascenso next term.
Three sides confirm post-season place
With only one regular season game remaining, just three sides have now booked their place in the Liguilla – Veracruz, Tigres UANL, and Atlas. Behind that trio – who have 28 points each – there are nine sides competing for five more places. Pumas UNAM could mathematically be included as a tenth side, but would have to see an eight-goal swing in their favour to overcome Santos Laguna.
Atlas became the first side to assure themselves of place by beating Club Tijuana 2-1 at the Estadio Caliente on Friday night.
A Gregory Garza goal on the stroke of half time had given the hosts hope of ending their dismal run of form, but Martin Barragan and Luis Caballero both struck after the break to give ‘Los Zorros’ their third consecutive win.
Tijuana are now in serious danger of missing out on the playoffs. They were top of the table after Week 10, but have now lost four of their last five and are just one point ahead of ninth-placed Toluca.
Chivas’ form continues to slip
On Saturday night Tigres UANL joined Atlas as the second qualifiers. The winner of their game at home against Chivas would have assured themselves of a place, but Tigres dominated from the first whistle and never looked like losing.
On loan Enrique Esqueda continued his rich vein of form to head them into the lead in the eighth minute. It was his sixth goal in five appearances and there is an increasing clamour for Miguel Herrera to include the 27-year-old in either the Gold Cup or Copa America squad this summer.
Edgar Lugo volleyed in a wonderful second for Tigres after half an hour, meaning Jorge Enriquez’s 76th minute goal for Chivas was little more than a consolation.
Chivas are now starting to look much less of a threat than they did a month ago. They have won just one of their last six games in all competitions – a 1-0 win at home to struggling Leon – and also lost the Copa MX final against Puebla.
Leones Negros on the brink
Veracruz became the third and final team to book a Liguilla spot with almost the last kick of the whole weekend.
While their late 2-1 win over Leones Negros sent the visiting fans into raptures, it brought tears to the eyes of the home supporters, who know their team are now the favourites to face the drop next weekend.
The game started well for the hosts –a 23rd minute Edgar Hernández put them 1-0 ahead and it stayed that way until the hour mark when Leobardo López struck for Veracruz. Just when it looked like both sides would settle for a draw, Emmanuel García smashed the ‘Tiburones Rojos’ into the lead in the 86th minute.
It means Leones Negros will already know their fate by the time they kick off against Cruz Azul next Saturday. If Puebla take anything from their Friday night game in Torreon against Santos Laguna they will be relegated, but if Puebla lose then a victory in the Estadio Azul would save them.