Orbelin, Chivas heap more misery on Atlas with Clasico Tapatio win
GUADALALARA, Mexico -- Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds" rang out inside Estadio Jalisco less than 10 minutes after Chivas had defeated Atlas 1-0 in Friday's Clasico Tapatio.
"Don't worry about a thing, 'cause every little thing gonna be alright..."
It was a perplexing choice of song given that home side Atlas had just completed the first seven games of the Apertura without scoring a single goal and broken Queretaro's modern-day record of going 548 consecutive minutes without netting in Liga MX play.
Things are worrisome for Atlas and finding Marley's brighter future for a team in turmoil in the present and without a league title since 1951 is a tough ask.
At full-time, the ones dancing in the stands were dressed in red and white. Chivas not only won the Guadalajara derby but also made it three consecutive wins in seven days, without a single goal being conceded, to propel themselves into the playoff reckoning.
But obtaining the clasico victory wasn't easy for favorite Chivas. Los Rojiblancos just about deserved to win although it took a special goal from Orbelin Pineda to earn the three points in a game affected by a storm that swept into Guadalajara just as the players were walking out inside Estadio Jalisco.
The floodlights intermittently dimmed in the first half and so did the play, with Atlas starting the brighter team, but neither side really taking control for sustained periods. After initial attempts to not break Queretaro's record, Atlas' drive was replaced by some nervous tension in front of 37,921 fans, which were roughly split 50-50 between the two teams.
Chivas stepped up as the torrential rain eased, with Javier "Chofis" Lopez and Pineda gradually starting to influence the game and holding midfielder Michael Perez helping to stifle Atlas' attacking intent.
Lopez, in particular, looked like he was going to create something and he almost opened the scoring in first-half injury time when his shot from distance was saved by Atlas keeper Jose Hernandez. Pineda then actually did the damage in the 64th minute, when he thrashed in an effort from the edge of the box to cap the type of performance that makes you think the dynamic midfielder could once again be knocking at the door of the national team.
"He's doing very well, he believes and grafts like a workman," said Cardozo of Pineda. "The group is phenomenal: they don't complain, they do double training sessions without a problem."
"Orbelin [Pineda] has come back to form because he wanted to. He's talented, dynamic and has a good shot."
It's been a very good week for Cardozo and while the ceiling of this team -- especially without Rodolfo Pizarro, Rodolfo Cota and Oswaldo Alanis -- may be lower than that of his predecessor Matias Almeyda, shades of the old, successful Chivas are starting to reappear. There's a tenacity about the side and a defensive solidity, although they'll need more threat up front against stronger sides.
Over at Atlas, Gerardo Espinoza's job could be in danger after the clasico defeat. The club opted to go for youth team players like Cristian Calderon, Ismael Govea, Ulises Cardona and Hernandez this season. That kind of policy is naturally both risky and requires patience. It's clearly not paying off so far but there's also some evidence to suggest Atlas' performances aren't as bad as that goal stat suggests.
Prior to the match, Atlas had the same expected goals as third-placed Santos Laguna (seven) and were fourth in the table in terms of shots on target (31). It was almost a statistical freak that Los Rojinegros couldn't score during their first six matches. Against Chivas, Atlas actually had a higher expected goals number (0.90) than Chivas (0.84) in the 90 minutes.
Not that any of the numbers will cure the injured pride of Atlas fans, who not only lost the club's biggest game of the season but are now also the brunt of jokes across Liga MX for their lack of goals. But just perhaps Atlas sporting president Rafa Marquez may give Espinoza more slack, it doesn't appear that the players have lost confidence in the coach.
"It makes me sad, hurt," said Espinoza afterwards. "I came with the hope of winning, celebrating, but the boys left hurt and that makes me sad."
"The boys showed effort, dedication and in football there are good and bad moments, this is a bad one," he continued. "I have faith in this group and that there will be positives in the short term."
For that to happen, Atlas needs to both strengthen in what remains of the transfer window and hope the youngsters get up to speed quickly because it looks after Friday's clasico like only one team in Guadalajara is capable of reaching the playoffs this season.