Liga MX playoffs – Chivas Cruz Azul advance as Monterrey shocked by San Luis

The Liga MX quarter-finals are officially set! While the top four of the Clausura 2022 regular season were left behind, seeds 5-12 all faced off last weekend in a thrilling play-in round. With eight teams remaining, here are four talking points from the latest batch of playoff games and some thoughts ahead of this week’s two-legged quarter-finals.

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Chivas crosses ahead of Pumas and meets rivals Atlas

In recent years, and outside of the Matias Almeyda era which saw the team win two Liga MX crowns and a CONCACAF Champions League title, there has never been a period so exciting and promising for Chivas than today. The No.6-seeded side not only brushed off the No.11 Pumas 4-1 on Sunday in the play-off round, but also appeared to rejuvenate their players and Estadio Akron crowd once again. become louder and more engaging with each passing week.

Under caretaker manager Ricardo Cadena, Chivas is in the midst of a perfect five-game winning streak since taking the reins following the dismissal of Marcelo Michel Leano last month.

Sunday’s win, which landed on striker Fernando Beltran’s birthday and the club’s 116th birthday, was also significant for striker Alexis Vega, who celebrated his contract extension with Chivas in a presentation before kick off.

“I am totally grateful [for the fans], it is also for them that I stayed. I signed [my extension] without any fear,” Vega said after his goal and assist in the win. “I’m part of the best team in Mexico.”

The next step for Chivas in the quarter-finals of the qualifiers: A Clasico Tapatio series against Crosstown rivals and current title holders, No. 3 seed Atlas.

While Chivas will have more momentum, Atlas will have more defensive solidity with Camilo Vargas leading the net. Both teams’ absences could also impact the quarter-final series. For an Atlas team that has had some question marks on its front line, some setbacks could be felt by the exit of attacking midfielder Jairo Torres to the Chicago Fire earlier this month.

At Chivas, their Sunday celebrations were somewhat bittersweet after the club announced winger Jesus Angulo’s season was over and would require surgery for a fractured fibula that will sideline him for 12 weeks.

Jurado’s heroism sets up Cruz Azul-Tigers clash

Cruz Azul goalkeeper Sebastian Jurado put in one of the best performances of his career on Saturday, helping lead the No.8 seed Los Cementeros to a narrow play-off win over No.9 Necaxa through a penalty shootout. Despite allowing a late equalizer in the 88th minute that cemented a 1-1 scoreline, Jurado, 24, was hugely influential with his six saves in regulation time and two extra saves on the shooting streak in the ensuing goal – which ended 3-1 in favor of Cruz Azul.

“It’s an indescribable emotion. Having my parents, my brother here [as well]”, said the goalkeeper after the game against TUDN looking at the Estadio Azteca crowd who chanted his name.

In the recent past, this wasn’t always the case for Jurado. As longtime starter and captain Jose de Jesus Corona recovered from injury, Jurado was often criticized for a handful of uninspiring outings in the net. Now, with Corona in fine form, it remains up in the air whether manager Juan Reynoso will restore the 41-year-old veteran or Jurado to a starting spot in the next round of quarter-finals against the No. 2-seeded Tigres.

Regular season runners-up will be a much tougher test for Cruz Azul, and while star forward André-Pierre Gignac isn’t fully fit, the Tigres aren’t lacking in firepower in their scoring squad. 30 goals in 17 matches. Keep in mind that the away goals tiebreaker is no longer used in the Liga MX playoff structure, which means that if the two teams are tied after both quarter-finals , the Tigers would go to the top of the series.

San Luis upsets mighty Monterrey

Ahead of a penalty shoot-out after it was 2-2 in regulation time, it seemed at first that the football gods were looking more kindly on the No.7 seed Monterrey. Former Tottenham Hotspur striker Vincent Janssen had scored once again after ending a 2022 goal drought in his previous match, and after two goals from No.10 seed San Luis in the second half, Monterrey fought back valiantly and eventually got a spectacular equalizer from 21-year-old Michell Rodriguez in the 96th minute.

Monterrey’s Estadio BBVA Bancomer erupted into a frenzy on Saturday, feeling an invitation to the next knockout round might be within their reach.

Then things started falling apart for Los Rayados in shots on goal. With former Monterrey goalkeeper Marcelo Barovero in the San Luis net, the Argentine took charge with two saves that secured a 3-1 penalty shoot-out win for the away team. Monterrey, whose roster of talent is said to have the highest total market value in Liga MX, had just lost at home to a side whose value is the sixth-lowest in the league.

Since leading the Brazilian U23s to a gold medal at the 2020 Olympics, San Luis manager Andre Jardine has turned heads after joining them earlier this year and pushing them all the way to the quarter-finals. That said, his roster’s performance is generally erratic, which isn’t exactly a promising sign ahead of a two-man streak against No. 1 seed Pachuca.

To make matters more difficult, San Luis starting defender Unai Bilbao has suffered a ligament injury which could possibly rule him out of the rest of the playoffs.

Puebla survives on pens, will face America

Less than 24 hours after Saturday’s play-offs ended in penalties, Sunday’s opener between No. 5 seed Puebla and No. 12 seed Mazatlan followed suit. . Puebla, initially trailing 2-0 in the 14th minute, found themselves cornered by a Mazatlan side who came back strong with goals in the 37th and 91st.

In Puebla’s Estadio Cuauhtemoc, Mazatlan’s away fans celebrated wildly unaware that every team that scored a late equalizer this Liga MX weekend would lose 3-1 in a penalty shootout.

This time it was Puebla goalkeeper Antony Silva who shone in front of the net. With two shootout saves, the goalkeeper perfectly prepared 21-year-old Israel Reyes for the game-winning opportunity.

The result was emblematic of the never say die attitude that has defined Puebla and its 37-year-old manager Nicolas Larcamon this season. Looking back at the aforementioned total market values, it’s important to remember that despite being ranked fourth in the Liga MX, they were also the ones to emerge as league leaders in the first half. de la Clausura 2022. Despite a dip in form at the end of the regular season, Larcamon and his men are an exciting dark horse who will be eager to begin their quarter-final challenge against No. 4 seed Club America. .

“We’re off to a great series [against Club America]. A historic series for the club, for the group, and that’s what we’re here for,” Larcamon said at the post-match press conference.

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