Another chapter was written in one of the most significant rivalries in the world of soccer on Saturday night. The biggest and most historic rivalry in Mexican football, known as the “Superclasico”, is a game between Club America and Chivas of Guadalajara. It is a game that the entire country stops and watches. This time, Club America came out on top by a score of 4-1.
The build up to the game could either be described as over-hyped or under-hyped, depending on how you choose to view games between the two biggest teams in Mexico.
America was looking to right the ship and solidify their liguilla position. They were desperate for a victory, having not won since August 17. There was also the story of Memo Ochoa. Since his decision to leave the old continent and return to his youth club he had yet to taste victory. What better way to break the goose egg than by beating his hometown team. Finally, Miguel Herrera has had a marvelous run of results in Super Clasicos. He sported a record of six wins, two draws, and only one loss entering the game and was sure to want to keep that going.
CHIVAS LOOKING FOR ANSWERS, IDENTITY
Chivas is not currently what one would call a direct rival to Club America in any sense of the word, at least not as far as this tournament goes. They seem to be searching for their direction and a core identity. Ironic considering their proud tradition as a team of only Mexican players. Chivas entered the game looking for a sign of hope and encouragement. They sit near the bottom of the table and are relegation threatened. After their complete and utter implosion against Pachuca midweek they fired coach Tomas Boy. Boy became the 26th coaching casualty in 17 seasons for the Guadalajara outfit.
His replacement, Luis Fernando Tena, managed Cruz Azul to the CONCACAF Champions League title in 2014, but has not been overly impressive in recent times. His appointment seemed reactionary and was met by skepticism by many Chivas supporters. The prevailing attitude is that his best successes may be behind him; his 2012 Gold medal at the London Olympics seems long ago. Tena represents the 19th coach of the club in the last 10 years. Again, not exactly confidence-evoking for the fans.
To say this game was unpredictable in the lead up to it is an understatement. And so with that, the two Mexican giants took to the fable pitch of the Azteca stadium to renew hostilities.
The game began with each team pressuring the other and generally playing at a rushed pace. The early game jitters caused a scrappy first 15 minutes of play with neither team creating any serious threat.
AMERICA DISHES OUT PUNISHMENT TO CHIVAS
All the broken plays and disjointed efforts of the first few minutes were soon forgotten though. It only took 17 minutes for America to slice apart the Chivas defense and open the scoring. Alex Renato’s cheeky back heel sprung Roger Martinez down the left side of the pitch. At pace, he whipped in a cross that was controlled beautifully by Francisco Cordoba. Córdova slotted the ball past Chivas keeper Jose Antonio Rodriguez. The Guadalajara keeper will be wondering how his defense went AWOL so easily.
In the ensuing minutes America looked more likely to extend its lead than did Chivas tie the game. No concrete chances came to the Aguilas, though they clearly had the upper hand on the visitors.
The game took a nasty, almost criminal turn in minute 37. Chivas’ Antonio “Pollo” Briseño was shown a red card for one of the most violent studs-up tackles one will ever see. His victim was Azulcrema star Gio dos Santos. The images of the thigh of dos Santos were enough to turn one’s stomach. Not even the most die-hard Chivas fan will have any doubt as to whether the tackle warranted a straight red or not. The only question is how long Briseño’s suspension will be.
Things went from bad to worse for the visitors right before the end of the half. Paul Aguilar dinged a sublime pass over a bewildered Chivas defense and Córdova was well positioned to snatch at the ball and fire it into the net. The “Hidrocálido” had his second of the half, which would have dimmed any glimmer of hope of a comeback that Chivas had.
CHIVAS COME OUT FLYING
The teams took the field for the second stanza with America sitting pretty. They had Chivas right where they wanted them and would have been happy to just see out the 45 minutes in an uneventful manner. Chivas, down a man, down two goals, and having been outplayed by a wide margin thus far were looking at finding some team spirit and limiting any further damage.
To Chivas’ credit, they came out of the gate flying. An early Brizuela free kick came close to testing Memo Ochoa , sailing over the crossbar. That was followed up with a corner kick that America dealt with without much bother.
The early high work rate paid dividends for Chivas only four minutes into the second half. Alan Pulido pulled a goal back as he was able to strike the ball from the left side of the box and across the face of the America goal. Ochoa stretched out but couldn’t get a hand to it. With 40 minutes remaining in the half the score was America 2 and Chivas 1.
Perhaps it was inevitable that, down a man, Chivas would eventually run out of steam. Indeed, on the hour mark America winger Córdova came close to grabbing his hat trick. It took a highlight reel save by Jose Antonio Rodriguez to keep his team within arms reach.
Little by little, America began to use their numerical advantage to impose their will. They enjoyed large spells of comfortable possession and looked likely to re-establish their two-goal cushion.
VAR saved Chivas from a penalty call in minute 68 but referee Fernando Guerrero called for a handball against Chivas the very next play. VAR again was consulted and this time the penalty was awarded. Before the kick could even be taken, Chivas were down to 9 men as Cervantes was sent off for dissention. Finally, in minute 74, Emanuel Aguilera stepped up to the spot and hammered the ball in the net. The goal restored America’s two-goal advantage. América 3 – Guadalajara 1.
America’s fourth goal, and the final nail in Chivas’ coffin, came one minute from time as Henry Martin took a spectacular scissor kick that found the back of the net. It put the icing on a fantastic night for the Aguilas.
This is the Super Clasico of Mexico and it was the 200th edition of this amazing rivalry. There was a little bit of everything and the game didn’t disappoint Americanistas or neutrals. For America, the most important thing was to go home with three points. The health of star man Gio dos Santos is a worry, but they played well and didn’t get caught up in the emotions of the moment.
Supporters of Chivas, though, will be wondering what their team needs to do in order to close the gap to their age-old rivals. A good start would be keeping eleven players on the field.
Next up for Club America on October 5 is a Cruz Azul side that is rudderless and looking to find out who and what they are. Chivas will play host to Pumas on the same date.
Man of the Match: Francisco Sebastián Córdova