Latest FIFA ban distracts from Liga MX stretch run

For the second time this year, FIFA sanctioned Mexico for the behavior of its fans. (Photo by ANDY JACOBSOHN/AFP via Getty Images)
For the second time this year, FIFA sanctioned Mexico for the behavior of its fans. (Photo by ANDY JACOBSOHN/AFP via Getty Images) /
FIFA ban, Liga MX stretch run
Former Liga MX star Raúl Jiménez watches his chip shot clear Everton goalie Jordan Pickford. The goal gave Wolves a 2-0 lead in a game they eventually won 2-1. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images) /

FIFA’s latest two-game sanction against Mexico and Raúl Jiménez’s 50th goal with Wolves topped the soccer headlines today, pushing aside articles about the three midweek make-up games in Liga MX before a full slate of season finales.

For the second time this year, El Tri was hit with an attendance ban after fans at two separate October World Cup qualifiers let loose with the shameful homophobic chant that has plagued Mexico games for too long.

Along with the ban (no fans allowed at Mexico’s next two World Cup qualifiers), FIFA warned Mexico that stricter punishment could follow (points deduction or forfeit) if the issue is not adequately addressed.

The Mexican Soccer Federation had been negotiating to host El Tri’s next two games (Jan. 2 vs Costa Rica and Feb. 2 against Panama) in Guadalajara since fans at Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca continued to behave deplorably. The FMF admitted that the ban scuttled the deal and the two games will be played in Estadio Azteca, an outcome that costs the federation about 30 million dollars.

Jiménez helps Wolves rise to 7th in EPL

Mexico international Jiménez stole an Everton back-pass and chipped over goalie Jordan Pickford to help Wolverhampton defeat the Liverpool-based club 2-1.

The goal was Raúl’s 50th since joining the modest West Midlands club in 2018 and his second since returning from a horrific head injury last November that sidelined him for nine months.

Jiménez found the net 17 times in the 2019-2020 EPL campaign and added 10 more in Cup matches that season. Last season, the former América star scored 4 times in 11 games before the injury.

Liga MX make-up games

Cruz Azul hosts León Wednesday and Santos visits UNAM on Thursday in two games postponed from Matchday 11 while Pachuca welcomes Atlético de San Luis on Wednesday in a leftover Matchday 5 game.

All six teams entertain playoff hopes and will have quick turnarounds to get ready for their season finales over the weekend. In a bit of irony, four of these six Liga MX clubs will match up on Sunday as UNAM hosts Cruz Azul in a Mexico City derby while Santos welcomes Atlético de San Luis later that same day.

The Pachuca-San Luis contest kicks off the Wednesday action with both teams requiring a win to bolster their chances to qualify for the Liga MX playoffs. The host Tuzos celebrated their 129th anniversary on Monday but with only 17 points their status as the oldest team in Mexico is not enough to earn a postseason berth. The Tuneros (18 points) are only 1 point out of the 12th and the final wildcard spot, but a draw would still leave them behind the Chivas on goal differential.

Cruz Azul and León both aspire to a Top 4 finish and the first-round playoff bye that goes with it. The Cementeros (23 points) are coming off a huge win over crosstown rivals América, a victory that boosted the defending Liga MX champs into 5th place, just 1 point behind Toluca.

León also has 23 points but they trail Cruz Azul in goal differential (+2 for “La Fiera,” +6 for “La Máquina Azul”) so a draw would still leave them out of the top 4.

A road win against the champs will not be easy as Los Esmeraldas have had trouble scoring of late. Since a 2-2 draw at Tigres on Sept. 11, León has just 3 goals in 7 Liga MX matches. And one of those was an own-goal by a Puebla defender!

Santos (20 points) takes on the red-hot Pumas (18 points) who won three straight to climb back into the Liga MX playoff picture. The Guerreros have eight draws in 15 matches, illustrating their struggles to put teams away this season. A case in point: last weekend’s 3-2 win at lowly Querétaro, a game in which they blew a 2-0 first-half lead before finding the winner in minute 87.

Monterrey wins fifth CCL title. dark. Next

The Pumas had just one win through 11 matches and were battling Tijuana to stay out of the cellar. Then came that three-game streak (including an impressive 2-1 win at León) before a hard-fought draw at Pachuca last weekend.