Chivas earn late Clasico Tapatio win versus neighboring rivals Atlas
GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- Chivas left it very late, but beat Atlas 1-0 in the Clasico Tapatio on Sunday, thanks to a 92nd-minute goal from center-back Jair Pereira that sent the 40,000 fans in Estadio Chivas wild.
Here are three points from the wild finish:
1. Pereira rescues Chivas
Chivas came into the Clasico hoping to win four consecutive Liga MX games for the first time since 2011. With the playoff race on and fans excited about coach Matias Almeyda's brand of football, there was a sense beforehand that this was an afternoon in which Chivas would decimate their struggling Guadalajara rival. For fans, the idea was that it would be sweet revenge for all the taunts from Atlas fans about Chivas' battle against relegation.
In the end, it went loosely to plan for Chivas. Atlas came out of the game with much credit, but with that fourth victory and three points, Chivas are now seventh place in the Liga MX. The first half was all Chivas and Omar Bravo really should've scored at least once, but Atlas held on. After the break, both teams had chances.
Arturo Gonzalez hit the crossbar in the 76th and Gonzalo Bergessio forced a fine flying save from Rodolfo Cota.
But just when it appeared Chivas had run out of ideas in the final third, Pereira rose highest from a corner in second half injury time and handed Chivas the win.
Chivas fans were as joyous in the concourses of the Estadio Chivas following the match as after any previous victory in the stadium; testament not just to how much the three points meant, but also how the real clasico for Chivas fans in Guadalajara is against Atlas, not Club America.
After a tepid performance overall from Los Rojiblancos, this was a huge victory. Ugly wins are just as important as the more aesthetically pleasing ones over Monterrey, Pumas and Puebla in recent weeks and confidence in the Chivas camp is sky high with the Clausura coming to its crescendo. With three rounds of matches to go in the regular season, Chivas fans can now smell the liguilla.
2. Bravo fails, brought off early
The main negative for Chivas surrounded the captain and club's highest ever goalscorer Omar Bravo, who was brought off by Almeyda in the 58th. His replacement, 21-year-old Eduardo "Chofis" Lopez, received a hero's welcome by the Chivas faithful.
Bravo had the chance of the game in the 25th when he found himself through on goal from an Edwin Hernandez pass. But with the net gaping, Bravo couldn't steer the ball past Oscar Ustari, who should be praised for the save, but shouldn't have been allowed to get near it.
There was a similar -- if slightly more difficult -- chance for Bravo six minutes later, which he also failed to convert.
The 36-year-old has only scored once in the Liga MX since last November and only started on Sunday due to young striker Angel Zaldivar being left out of the squad due to injury
Time seems to have caught up with Bravo and it would be no surprise if Chivas go out and buy a center-forward in the summer. Bravo would remain a powerful leader in the squad and positive example for the youngsters, but whether such a proud former international would accept such a bit-part role is doubtful.
3. Atlas still lacking, despite Ustari brilliance
For a side that has the nickname "Los Amigos del Balon" (literally, "Friends of the Ball"), playing on the back foot against your city rivals isn't exactly the way it should be.
Nevertheless, Costas' side defended well in a 4-4-2 formation and deserve praise. The space between the line of four defenders and the midfield was minimal, reducing the area that the deadly Carlos Pena and Orbelin Pineda had to operate in. Uruguayan duo Egidio Arevalo and Alvaro Gonzalez played very well and stifled Chivas in the center of the field. The home team became frustrated and lost discipline in constructing their attacks.
Rafa Marquez led from the back in his first Clasico Tapatio since 1998, putting in some fierce tackles and organizing his troops well. At times, Atlas players pushed the boundaries of the rule book and Chivas will be disappointed that the officials took until the 65th minute to hand an Atlas player Marquez a yellow card.
To be fair, Atlas were more expansive in the second half, but if Los Rojinegros want to be a force in Mexican football, they are unlikely to get very far in the Liga MX playing that way every week.
The real underlying issue at Atlas, who may come into relegation trouble next season, is finding any kind of consistency from the top down. Constant changes in the club -- and especially in the head coaching role -- mean there is a no clear identity on the pitch. Costas seems to want to play a more open game, but is pragmatic in realizing his side couldn't go toe-to-toe with a Chivas side full of confidence and willing to throw players forward.
Which way will Atlas go?
The Rojinegros are not bottom of the Liga MX for nothing and need direction in order to become like top Liga MX outfits Monterrey and Tigres. There is no reason in principle why that can't be achieved if money is invested and a proper vision afhered to, but reaching those heights appear a long way away at present.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.