With New England and Chivas USA drawing, Pachuca the defending Superliga Champions need only a draw to advance to the knock out stages of the competition. Standing in their way are Osvaldo Sanchez and the reigning Mexican Clausura Champions Santos Laguna who must feel hard done by some of the officiating and bad bounces of the ball they received on Wednesday night versus Chivas USA.
Santos has come out with an attacking intent but without any sort of shape and with some terrible spacing. In addition a lack of ideas in the final third has me thinking Pachuca may not even have to work to get the point they need to advance. This script plays out for the first twenty five minutes of the half but then Christian Benitez, the goat against Chivas USA scores and all of a sudden Pachuca is holding on for dear life.
Fernando Arce has taken over this match and his skill is leading Santos forward while Pachuca minus Christian Gimenez is continuing to fight. This last portion of the match has been arguably as good as any action in the Superliga especially given what is at stake, the two sides involved and the impeccable quality of the pitch. Pachuca actually creates some chances and gets the draw needed to advance. As always Pachuca knows what it must do to stay alive in these competitions and advance to face the Houston Dynamo in the semifinal of a major competition for the third time in the last two years.
Pachuca doesn’t waste anytime pushing forward and getting the vital first goal thanks to Damian Alvarez. As the half wears on the experienced Pachuca midfield who has together won so many matches of this importance asserts their influence on the match. Santos goes forward often but seems open to counter attacking. Bruno Marioni in particular is getting a number of chances. Towards the end of the half Santos does well to get set piece opportunities and comes oh so close to an equalizer a few times but still no breakthrough.
Fullerton’s Titan stadium is the venue for a clash that will determine who will win Group B of Superliga. New England merely needs a draw to win the group, Chivas a victory and a Pachuca loss or draw. The winner of this match is guaranteed passage to the next round. For the loser, elimination is not certain but nor is passage. Should be a great night of football from Superliga 2008.
After an early attempt by Sainey Nyassi on goal and a good save by Dan Kennedy, Chivas once again takes control of the match with New England looking tired from their heroic ordeal on board an American Airlines flight the other day and the Revs get burned by Ante Razov’s sixth goal in six games. Incidentally no other Chivas player has scored in the last month.
New England begins to push guys forward and makes two tactical changes leaving themselves exposed at the back. But given New England’s quality and ability to control matches this season, do we really expect Chivas USA to win this match? I certainly don’t but right now am being proven wrong. Honestly, New England is likely to score at any point. Shalrie Joseph and Stevie Ralston were both quiet in the first half but now they seem to want to assert themselves on this match and as we know when they both are playing well, the Revs are tough to beat.
New England continues to use slow, patient build up to create chances and finally they score a goal on a nice Ralston corner right to Joseph’s head. Dan Kennedy probably could have saved the shot, but honestly I think the man marking was really poor by Chivas on the corner.
Now that it’s tied and Joseph and Ralston are playing well, I expect New England to kill this game off holding the ball as much as possible and giving Chivas very little possession. As it turns out Chivas gets more possession than I expected but it wasn’t exactly good possession and New England as expected gets the draw and advances as Group B Champions. The Goats now await their fate: a Pachuca win or draw versus Santos Laguna and they are eliminated. A Santos win allows Chivas to advance to face Houston. Santos Laguna has been eliminated.
Not much to say about this first half other than this match is providing us with very little in the way of good football. Matt Reis made the play of the first half with a diving save on a nice left footed shot by Jesse Marsch while New England’s best chance came via a wonderful through ball from Shalrie Joseph to Kheli Dube which left Dube in space potentially one on one with Dan Kennedy, but Dube had an awful touch and the ball went over the touch line harmlessly for a goal kick. New England’s back line has been poor while Chivas has controlled the midfield but run out of ideas in the final third.