Chivas streak into playoffs for fourth consecutive season

Miguel Angel Ponce leaps into Alexis Vega's arms after scoring the game-winner for the Chivas. (Photo by Cesar Gomez/Jam Media/Getty Images)
Miguel Angel Ponce leaps into Alexis Vega's arms after scoring the game-winner for the Chivas. (Photo by Cesar Gomez/Jam Media/Getty Images) /
Chivas beat Necaxa
Since taking over as Chivas head coach on April 14, Ricardo Cadena has guided Guadalajara to a perfect 4-0-0 record. (Photo by Cesar Gomez/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

A Miguel Ponce goal in minute 89 guaranteed the Chivas a home playoff game in the wildcard round while also allowing “El Rebaño Sagrado” to dream about a first-round playoff bye for a few hours. But only for a few hours …

Two minutes after stepping onto the Estadio Victoria pitch, Ponce headed home an Alexis Vega corner kick to give Guadalajara a 1-0 win at Necaxa in the season finale for both teams. The victory lifts the Chivas to 26 points, in fifth place behind Puebla and Atlas on goal differential.

When Puebla fell behind Mazatlán FC 2-0 before the hour mark later Friday night, the Chivas were actually in line to move into fourth place, but only if the Camoteros lost by three goals. Mazatlán threatened a few times but a late penalty kick allowed Puebla to remain above the Chivas in the standings.

That means Guadalajara can finish no better than fifth, regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s matches (Tigres at Atlas and Cruz Azul at América, to be specific).

Chivas hit postseason on four-game win streak

After a scoreless first half at Estadio Victoria, the Chivas thought they’d taken a lead on a Vega blast from 18 feet in minute 47 only to see the goal wiped out due to offside. Guadalajara created the better chances for the next 20 minutes but could not get it done in the final third.

The host Rayos produced a few scoring opportunities after minute 75 and seemed to be the protagonist as the clock wound down. Then a quick counter by the Chivas produced a corner kick and Ponce was Johnny-on-the-spot to claim the header.

Despite the victory, the Chivas could tumble into eighth place if Monterrey and Atlético de San Luis (both sitting on 23 points) win by big margins. The Rayados would have to defeat Tijuana by three goals and the Tuneros would need a four-goal margin over Santos to surpass the Chivas.

The 1-0 triumph was the fourth straight for the Chivas. The last time Guadalajara won four regular-season games on the trot was six years ago though the Chivas fashioned a four-game streak in November 2020. Back then, “The Goats” won their regular-season finale before winning their first three playoff games (including a quarterfinals sweep of América).

The loss sends Necaxa into 10th place, relegating the Rayos to a road game in the wildcard round. Playing away from home might be preferable for Jimmy Lozano and “Los Electricistas” who are 3-0-6 at home. Necaxa finished the Clausura 2022 with a 4-2-2 road record.

Mazatlán must now hold its breath

Matchday 17 continued in Mazatlán where the host Cañoneros jumped out to a 2-0 lead over Puebla before the hour. If “The Purple Gang” had managed a 3-0 win, the Chivas would have climbed into fourth place with a Top 4 seed a mathematical possibility. But when Pablo Parra converted a penalty kick for Puebla in minute 90+4, that relegated the Chivas to no better than a sixth place finish.

Parra’s late spot kick was not enough to prevent the Camoteros from falling out of a top seed and missing out on a first-round bye. After a 6-3-0 start to the season, Puebla staggered to the finish line, losing five of its last eight matches. The 2-1 setback leaves “La Franja” clinging onto a Top 4 seed pending the outcome of the Atlas-Tigres and Monterrey-Tijuana matches.

As for Mazatlán FC, the win over Puebla moved them momentarily into 11th place and a wildcard spot. The only way the Cañoneros can miss out on their first-ever Liga MX playoff berth is if León beats Toluca AND UNAM defeats first-place Pachuca.

The Cañoneros’ victory eliminated Santos Laguna (17 points) and Tijuana (17 points) from playoff contention. Toluca has one chance: beat León and hope the Pumas do not win against Pachuca.

Next. Pachuca tops Liga MX Power Rankings. dark

Even if Mazatlán misses out on a postseason appearance, ownership will be pleased that the victory guarantees that the Cañoneros will not have to pay a “Relegation Fee” this year. FC Juárez (80 million pesos) and Tijuana (47 million pesos) are already consigned to hefty fines but with Mazatlán safe, the remaining penalty (33 million pesos) will be levied against either Querétaro or Toluca.