Ronaldinho steals the show in Liga MX debut versus Chivas
GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- It took Ronaldinho just six minutes of his Liga MX debut to get on the scoresheet.
The Brazilian superstar found himself in exactly the same position he was last Wednesday -- in his Copa MX debut versus Tigres -- stepping up to take a penalty to hand his Queretaro side the lead.
This time though he stroked the ball low to the left of Chivas goalkeeper Antonio Rodriguez and into the net. There would be no repeat of the embarrassing blast over the bar from Wednesday, and Gallos Blancos ran out comfortable 4-1 winners against 10-man Chivas.
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The headlines for Ronaldinho were entirely positive this time around, with the 34-year-old piercing the Chivas defense with a sublime pass for Camilo Sanvezzo to finish Queretaro's second goal.
It was the type of vision and quality to be expected from a player who has been named FIFA World Player of the Year on two occasions. On the field as well as off it, the transfer is showing signs of making sense for Queretaro.
Ronaldinho played as a central striker alongside Sanvezzo, with Danilinho on the right, William Da Silva on the left and Sinha in behind. It made the Brazilian the focus of Queretaro's attacks, and coach Ignacio "Nacho" Ambriz seems to have found a solution as to where his new star fits. The players around him make up for the Brazilian's lack of pace and running and create a fluid attacking unit that is difficult to defend against. Ronaldinho is not forced to press or run as much as if he played deeper, as he did Wednesday.
The caveat to the positivity from Ronaldinho and Queretaro is that it was allowed to look good by a poor piece of decision-making from Carlos Salcido which led to the early penalty and Chivas going down a man.
On the play, Sanvezzo broke through on goal and saw his effort parried by Rodriguez, but the former Vancouver Whitecaps striker latched onto the rebound and sent it towards goal, only for Salcido to tip the ball over the crossbar with his hand and inevitably receive a red card.
It was a rash error from the usually reliable Salcido and the look of utter disgust on his face showed he knew exactly what he'd done. The consequences were grave.
Reduced to 10 men and 1-0 down, Chivas hung on and stayed with Queretaro until Ronaldinho's threaded ball to Sanvezzo for Gallos Blancos' second in the 70th, with Da Silva adding the third after an uncharacteristic mistake from Rodriguez, who has been Chivas' player of the season to date, and Othoniel Arce netting the fourth in second-half injury time.
Giovanni Hernandez had grabbed a consolation for Chivas in the 85th with a free kick that Ronaldinho in his prime would've been more than proud of.
If there was a positive for Chivas, it was that despite the ticket price hike, 37,288 attended the match. In all honesty, it would've been half that had Ronaldinho not been playing.
It only emphasized that Sunday's match was all about Ronaldinho, with Mexico not regularly attracting such names in the past and the country's whole soccer industry given an injection of excitement by Queretaro's new signing.
Outside the Estadio Omnilife, that was in evidence, with "unofficial" shirts bearing the former Barcelona player's name being sold and Ronaldinho given a rousing reception both when his name was read out and when he exited the field in the 79th. Whole families wore the number "49" on their new Queretaro shirts and when opposition fans cheer a player's celebration dance after netting against their team, you know something a little different is going on.
In the mixed zone, a media scrum assembled for Ronaldinho -- who didn't speak -- while the Chivas players ambled by with only a spattering of journalists and cameras awaiting them.
For Chivas, the pressure is once again on coach Carlos Bustos, who admitted results have not been good enough and his future is in the hands of the owners.
The Guadalajara club let a golden opportunity slip in failing to capitalize on the 3-0 win over Leones Negros two weeks ago and extend a gap in the relegation battle after rivals Veracruz, UDG and Puebla all slipped up this weekend.
Salcido -- the main culprit for the defeat -- probably did not sleep well on Sunday night, while the same may be true for renowned partier Ronaldinho, although it will likely be for entirely different reasons.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.