Five things we learned from round four of matches in Liga MX’s 2018 Clausura:
1. Gignac provides magic to stun Honda’s Pachuca
A lot of the build-up to the Liga MX weekend was centered around French forward Jeremy Menez making his debut for Club America in Estadio Azteca. As it turned out, Club America coasted to a 1-0 home win over Atlas, with Menez going 23 minutes in a lukewarm performance.
But it was another Frenchman who provided the moment of the weekend: Andre-Pierre Gignac.
Gignac netted late to hand Tigres a 3-2 victory over Pachuca with a goal that was exquisite enough on its own, even more so with context.
Eduardo Vargas had opened the scoring for Tigres in the 36th minute with a fine flicked finish (although if VAR was in place it would’ve only taken the one replay to see the Chilean was at least a couple of yards offside), with Javier Aquino doubling the home side’s advantage five minutes later.
The game looked over, with Tigres difficult enough to take points off in Estadio Universitario without giving them a 2-0 head start.
But Angelo Sagal pulled one back two minutes after half-time to open up the possibility of a Pachuca comeback. Tigres coach Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti’s face turned sour. And when Japan international Keisuke Honda tapped in 10 minutes from time to level the score, the famously explosive Ferretti looked like he was ready to give his team the hairdryer treatment at full-time. It was then that 32-year-old Gignac turned the game back in Tigres’ favor, latching onto a Jorge Torres Nilo left-wing cross and diverting the ball into the net in the 84th with such a deft touch you needed to watch replays to work out how he’d managed to steer it into the corner of goal.
Menez may be the new Frenchman on the Liga MX block, but Gignac has long ruled the roost when it comes to Europeans impacting Mexico’s first division.
2. Chivas’ problem is in defense
The tide seemed to have turned in Chivas’ 2-1 loss on Saturday to Monterrey. The moment Alan Pulido swept the ball in to level the score at 1-1 just two minutes after coming on at half-time, Estadio Akron found its voice and energy. After a disappointing first half for Guadalajara, in which Monterrey netted through former Atlas player Alfonso Gonzalez, coach Matias Almeyda sent on Pulido and Isaac Brizuela and threw caution to the wind. It appeared that an unlikely victory was possible.
But Chivas’ euphoria lasted just three minutes, with Aviles Hurtado capitalizing on some indecisive — putting it kindly — defending from the home side’s center-backs to make it 2-1 in the 50th.
The goal summed up Chivas this season. The team is exciting moving forward and in possession, and if the excellent Rodolfo Pizarro features in the free central role the way he did in the second half, then Chivas will cause the opposition plenty of problems.
But to start winning matches consistently, Chivas need to sort out their defense. It isn’t like the solutions aren’t there. Oswaldo Alanis is yet to feature this season following his contractual dispute with the club and Jair Pereira once again was injured. Once both are fit and if they can find form, Chivas should improve substantially.
The debate about how Chivas are once again near the bottom of the Liga MX table will rage, but in a league with a short-season format and in which a strong run of games can fire teams into the playoff spots, Chivas fans shouldn’t be overly concerned: Sort the defense out and the confidence will spread.
Over at Monterrey, it would be a surprise if Rayados aren’t challenging again for the title. Any team that has the likes of Jonathan Urretaviscaya, Jesus Molina and Carlos Sanchez on the bench must have real quality in the starting XI.
3. Pablo Aguilar proving to be key signing for Tijuana
Paraguayan international Pablo Aguilar’s move back to Club Tijuana from Club America was a strange one. The 30-year-old had been a rock for Las Aguilas, is in his prime now and isn’t injured much.
America’s loss has very much been Tijuana’s gain so far, with Aguilar leading the border club’s defense to a 360-minute run at the start of the Clausura without conceding a goal.
Things are coming together for Diego Cocca’s team. Friday’s 2-0 victory over Puebla in Estadio Caliente was achieved with a degree of comfort. Two 0-0 away draws and two home wins tell the story of a team not frightened to shut things up on the road, while Friday’s victory pointed to a side, especially with an on-form Gustavo Bou, that also can be dangerous up front.
4. Leon fall to surprising 4-0 loss to Necaxa
There is no doubt the surprise result of the weekend was Leon falling 4-0 at home to Necaxa on Saturday.
Paraguayan striker Carlos Gonzalez netted twice, while Chilean Mati Fernandez showed signs that he is ready to take more responsibility than he has so far and become a focal point of Necaxa’s attack.
Landon Donovan’s Leon debut is nearing, but coach Gustavo Diaz will be more concerned at the way his in-form team collapsed with no real forewarning. La Fiera had been one of the more impressive sides in the first few weeks of the season.
Lobos BUAP almost provided another surprise in their Saturday match against Pumas, but the university side couldn’t find a winner despite pushing hard toward the end of the 1-1 draw.
5. Atlas in need of a lift
Atlas is the only Liga MX club without a single point after four matches of the Clausura. The naming of Omar Ruben Romano as manager during the week wasn’t warmly received by Atlas fans, although the Argentine had only two days of training with the team and the club’s situation is hardly his fault.
The 1-0 defeat to Club America was expected, but if Atlas can’t pick up results in their upcoming games against Cruz Azul, Lobos BUAP and Necaxa, there will be serious questions asked about the way the club is being run.