Santos kept up their fantastic recent form and came away with all three points versus Atlético de San Luis, winning 3-2. With both teams currently playing their best football of the season, a lively afternoon affair was expected. The fans at the near-capacity Alfonso Lastras stadium were not disappointed.
Santos came into the game tied for the lead in Liga MX, only sitting in third based on goal difference. Last week’s come back against Necaxa solidified them as contenders as well as reinforced their status as an offensive juggernaut. Julio Furch was the author of both goals last week and is the current leading scorer league-wide.
Entering the game, San Luis were also on a high, having beaten Puebla by a 3-1 margin and looking much more dangerous offensively under the guidance of new head coach Gustavo Matosas. Atlético came into the game on a five-game unbeaten streak.
HEAVENLY START FOR SANTOS
Deadly striker Julio “Tank” Furch was active in this encounter right from the get go. It took but six minutes for him to open the scoring. An error by Luis Reyes created a gift for Furch. Reyes misjudged his back pass and Furch simply had to tap the ball into the open net of Felipe Rodriguez. Offensive powerhouses like Santos don’t need any help to score and Reyes would have been ruing the error.
The opening minutes saw a feisty midfield deadlock. Santos’ attacking flair is predicated on their lightning-quick counter attacks. This strategy was put to the test by a settled and stubborn San Luis midfield. Atlético dropped back, almost inviting Santos to push forward with too much verve, hoping to beat the visitors at their own game.
REYES REDEEMS HIMSELF
San Luis’ plan worked to perfection as they absorbed the high pressing energy of the visitors. Luis Reyes, anxious to atone for his earlier gaffe, was pivotal in creating the tying goal.
He pounded in an inch-perfect cross from a free kick that found the head of the onrushing Nico Ibañez. The Argentine redirected the ball superbly past Santos keeper Jonathan Orozco. Twelve minutes on the clock and the score was already 1-1.
The action did not slow down by any means, however. Santos regained the lead just four minutes later. This time, Adrian Lozano capitalized on more soft defending by Atlético. This time, Jorge Sanchez lost his marker, allowing a shot on goal that Felipe Rodriguez could only parry away. However Lozano was perfectly positioned to side-foot the ball into the net. Quite a week for the twenty-year-old winger who was recently called up to the Mexican National team by Tata Martino.
A GAME OF CAT AND MOUSE
As the game found its rhythm, so did both coaches. Guillermo Almada and Gustavo Matosas made tactical adjustments that indeed created an interesting game of chess.
San Luis found their feet and began to impose their will on a Santos side that appeared to have run out of steam. The high energy pressing that they started the game with was long gone as halftime approached.
In minute 35 VAR was called into action. Eryc Castillo was deemed to have committed a foul in the six-yard box and the hosts were afforded the opportunity to even the game from the penalty spot. Spanish striker Ian Gonzalez powered the ball past Orozco, who was only able to get a slight hand to the ball. San Luis deserved no less than tying the game.
The half ended with the score 2-2. Santos would have been frustrated at not being about to maintain the lead and Atlético thrilled that they had clawed their way back into the game after a disastrous start.
ALL TO PLAY FOR IN THE SECOND HALF
The first half was high octane and edge of your seat entertaining, the second half not so much. Both teams seemed to plod their way to a stalemate in the midfield, risking little. The game required a spark that nobody was able to create. Neither team threatened until just over the hour mark.
It took at moment of genius from sublime Uruguayan Brian Lozano to break the deadlock. He seemed to have nowhere to go and to be surrounded by well positioned defenders. However, with his back to goal he took a couple of steps and rifled a majestic curling shot that the outstretched Felipe Rodriguez could not stop.
Even with attacking threats Ricardo Centurion and German Berterame coming on for Atlético, they were unable to break through a packed midfield. The game petered out at the end, which suited Santos just fine.
Santos heads home to Torreon and the welcoming confines of the TSM Stadium. With twenty points in the bank and lowly Veracruz as their next opponent they will surely fancy adding three more and pulling away from the pack of contenders. This team has quality, confidence, and is one of the big favorites to go far in the Liguilla.
Atlético San Luis, meanwhile, will lick their wounds but learn from their errors. This is a game that they could have won, but let get away from them. The loss sees them temporarily drop out of the top eight. They won’t have to wait long to redeem themselves and get back in the win column. They face a dour Toluca side this Thursday at the Estadio Nemesio Díez.
MOTM: Brian Lozano