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PUMAS Blog: CONCACAF CL Game 3: Pumas 4 - 4 Houston

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

CONCACAF CL Game 3: Pumas 4 - 4 Houston

Video here.

The third group game of Pumas's CONCACAF Champions League challenge was a strange encounter in CU. In a first half full of movement and defensive fragility seven goals were scored, and it was not until the last twenty minutes of the match that any structure or order appeared. Fernando Morales (picture) was the pick of the players. Pumas must be unhappy with the result as they were manifestly the better footballing team, but were undone by the height and power of the Americans, and by some crass defending.

Apparently realising the possible threat of a strong Houston side, Tuca named pretty much a first eleven, with Palencia replacing Cacho from the game against Atlante, and Verón coming in for Palacios. The latter was a curious decision as González struggled all night against the tall Houston front line, and Palacios's height would have been useful, but maybe Ferretti wanted to give the Verón - González pairing game time before the América match on Sunday.

The game began with little or no rhythm, the play flowed from end to end and there was little in the way of building or structure in the middle of the field. In terms of pattern, all that really can be said is that there was a great deal of movement, and some poor defending.

Pumas looked shocked to be behind after only four minutes, but the American side looked well organised at dead ball situations, and it was at a corner they took the lead. Ex-Sunderland player Stuart Holden swung the ball in from the right and no Pumas defender challenged for the ball, while Bernal made a disastrous sortie which allowed Craig Waibel to head into an empty net, and Jaqua would have scored too if his colleague hadn't got there first.

There was more shock to come on the quarter-hour as Houston scored their second, after Palencia had nearly surprised goalkeeper Patrick Onstad with a thirty yard lob. Geoff Cameron picked up the ball on the right and somehow made his way past three hapless Pumas defenders and when the cross came in there were incredibly four Dynamo forwards to two Pumas defenders. The cross was knocked down by Ashe and Kamara smashed it past Bernal from near the penalty spot.

Luckily for Pumas their movement was also too much for a heavy-footed and static Houston defence, and a nice give and go by Dante López was knocked back into his path by Palencia, and López beat Onstad to pull one back. López nearly levelled with another run down the left channel, but on the half-hour Pumas were back on terms. Chiapas played another quick ball through, this time for Morales, who was brought down on the edge of the box by Eddie Robinson. With another referee Robinson might have been heading down the tunnel as it could be argued he was the last man. As it was the equaliser came from the free kick. Castro shot right-footed against the wall and the rebound fell to Efrain Juárez on the edge of the box and he hit it first time past Onstad.

Maybe at this point, with the match frantic and disordered, one of the more experienced players might have thought to calm matters a little, but within 7 minutes Juárez had given away a penalty when he got in a tangle with Ashe as he surged towards goal. It was clumsy as he had not even given himself a chance to win the ball with a challenge. Kamara stepped up to rifle the spot kick past Bernal, and Houston were leading 3-2.

To give credit to the home team, they didn't lie down and the openness of the game continued to be disconcerting. Another 7 minutes went by and Pumas were on terms again. Velarde floated a lovely ball through to Morales on the left, and he centred for Palencia to finish coolly. A crazy first half came to an end with Pumas taking the lead as an Íñiguez free kick was met by a completely unmarked Darío Verón just outside the six-yard box who headed Pumas's fourth.

One would have thought that a few quiet words from the coaches at half-time might have settled things, but the same chaotic football began the second half, neither side having made any changes, although Holden had gone off injured earlier and was replaced by Mullan. Eventually Tuca made the curious decision to bring off Verón, and bring on Palacios, and at the very moment they were defending a corner. Firstly it was González that was struggling, so unless Verón was injured it was a strange move. Secondly Pumas had had trouble against set pieces all night, and having to rapidly rearrange to defend a corner was not great preparation. In the end the defence got into a right tangle: a weak clearing header fell to Brian Mullan on the right and he floated a ball in for Weibal to head unhindered past a static Bernal, who should perhaps have come out.

For a few minutes more the match remained open, but Houston decided to fall back and hold on for the draw, and Pumas then played the ball around calmly without creating much, as Cacho and Bravo came on for Dante López and Paco Palencia. Although the UNAM had all the possession in the final twenty minutes, and probed gently, the weight of numbers behind the ball was too much. In the end the best late chance fell to Houston substitute Rosario whose medium range effort was pushed away by Bernal in the last minute.

Pumas stay on top of the qualifying group with 5 points, while Houston register their second draw.

Craig Waibel (4 minutes) 0-1
Kei Kamara (16) 0-2
Dante López (18) 1-2
Efraín Juárez (27) 2-2
Kei Kamara (pen) (34) 2-3
Juan Francisco Palencia (41) 3-3
Darío Verón (45) 4-3
Craig Waibel (50) 4-4

Walter Quesada of Costa Rica was quite leniant with cards: Eddie Robinson could have gone off and Juan Carlos Cacho might well have had a yellow for foolishly lashing out.
Pumas: none
Houston: yellow: Robinson

Player Ratings
Bernal 5 - at fault for the first goal and the last but made a couple of decent interventions too
Velarde 6 - looked good going forward but allowed Cameron far too much space
Juárez 5 - hero and villain. Great goal but far too loose at the back
Verón 5 - a poor game defensively
González 5 - struggled to cope with the physicality of the opposition
Castro 5 - anonymous in a midfield that was often bypassed
Chiapas 6 - did not do enough as a ball winner but some very nice touches going forward
Morales 7 - caused all sorts of problems, a very good match
Íñiguez 6 - not to blame for the defensive malaise but too subdued going forward
López 7 - another all-action display. Has turned into a very good purchase
Palencia 6 - scored nicely but missed a couple of gettable chances too. Used his strength well
Palacios 7 - apart from the goal when he had just come on, was a stabilising influence
Cacho 6 - one or two nice touches that didn't quite come off
Bravo - really didn't get any ball to speak of

Tuca 6 - the right kind of line-up again and was let down by some naive defending. Curious to bring off Verón and not González.

Elsewhere in Mexico.
After a conservative but effective performance in Curitiba, Brazil against Atlético Paranaense , Chivas went through to the quarter-finals of the Copa Sudamericana with a 4-3 victory. Arellano and Santana scored two spectacular goals that avenge Chivas's elimination at the hands of the same team in 2005.

San Luis went out after being completely outplayed by Argentinos Juniors and losing 2-0 (4-3 on aggregate). Argentinos go on to play Palmeiras in the quarter finals.

A Zeballos goal claimed a one-nil victory for Cruz Azul away to DC United, while in the other match in Pumas's group in the CONCACAF Champions League Luis Angel Firpo registered a 1-0 home win over San Francisco.

Santos suffered a 2-0 defeat away to Tauro of Panama in a close game where Juan Pablo Santiago was harshly sent off. Atlante struggled too, losing 1-0 to Joe Public in Cancún, where they were unable to cope with the physicality of the Trinidad side.

CONCACAF Champions League So Far:- (Brought to you by DT, scroll down the posts to see the links to video highlights of all games)
Preliminary Round First Legs
Preliminary Round Second Legs
Group Stage Matchday One
Group Stage Matchday Two
Group Stage Matchday Three - with Gary Stempel interview

Next Up
Pumas entertain América in the Estadio Olímpico Universitario. Pumas Morelos host Lobos BUAP.


At 21:08, Blogger DT said...

Thanks, what a bizzare game, wasn't it? I thought Craig Waibel was a right twat, am I wrong?

USA teams have played 9 games so far without a win, and although all 4 Mexican teams got through, they have not had things their own way at all, Costa Rica had Alajuelense knocked out in the pre-lims.... much more interesting competition than what goes on in Europe....

In each group the Mexican teams currently lie:- 2nd, 1st, 2nd & 3rd, the USA teams:- 4th, 3rd, Did Not Qualify & Did Not Qualify. And you could argue that all four Mexican teams have underperformed (and/or played second string teams)

Why is there STILL this idea that the MLS has surpassed the Mexican League ..... its absurd.

At 20:20, Blogger Richard said...

Not a big Waibel fan I have to say...

Certainly MLS teams have had a very bad tournament so far, although Houston were not that bad against Pumas. Mexican teams have been complacent but not incompetent. What has been surprising is the performance of clubs from the "lesser nations" such as Joe Public and Puerto Rico Islanders fighting it out and causing upsets.

The Honduran teams look reasonable, and the Costa Ricans and Panamanians are no mugs. I still expect Mexican teams to advance, but it is a more interesting tournament than I would have predicted, and frankly less dull than the group stages of the European Champions League (although I am not comparing the standard of football).


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