Puebla held off a late Pumas challenge to clinch a wildcard spot, the fourth consecutive time “La Franja” has qualified for the Liga MX playoffs since Nicolás Larcamón took charge of Camoteros Nation.
The 2-1 loss ended UNAM’s fading postseason hopes and likely guaranteed that coach Andrés Lillini will not be back with the club next season.
Earlier, visiting Mazatlán kept its season alive with a 2-2 draw at Necaxa, while the host Rayos squandered a chance to secure a ticket to the wildcard round. The result means León and Cruz Azul are into the playoffs and keeps FC Juárez and Tijuana in the running for the Liga MX postseason party.
The playoff permutations aside, the biggest story of the day was the news that Atlas was parting ways with coach Diego Cocca.
Puebla’s fast start proves to be the difference
The host Camoteros got on the scoreboard in minute 6 when Jordi Cortizo finished off a superb quick strike, taking a splendid Maxi Araujo pass into the box before chipping the onrushing Julio González.
Another swift counterattacking move boosted Puebla’s lead to 2-0 in minute 29. This time Araujo was released into the left side of the box by a cheeky scoop pass by Omar Fernández and the Uruguayan’s low left-footer was bundled into the back of the net by Pumas skipper Nicolás Freire.
Puebla then ceded the initiative and absorbed every UNAM attack until minute 83 when Eduardo Salvio blasted home from close range. Salvio would come close to equalizing just over a minute later, but that wouldn’t have been enough as the Pumas needed a win to keep their Liga MX playoff hopes alive.
The outcome lifted the Camoteros into 7th place and a win at home against league-leading América in the season finale would allow Puebla to host a wildcard match. The playoff appearance is the fifth in a row for “La Franja” and coach Larcamón has led his team to the postseason every season since arriving to Liga MX four seasons ago.
In Aguascalientes, Necaxa twice erased one-goal deficits to earn a hard-earned draw against Mazatlán FC. A win would have seen the Rayos clinch a spot in the Liga MX playoffs, but now “los Electricistas” must wait until Matchday 17.
The final weekend of the Apertura 2022 will see Necaxa, Atlético de San Luis, Mazatlán FC, FC Juárez and Tijuana battling for the final two wildcard slots.
Necaxa (19 points) would seem to hold a slight advantage as they close at 17th place Atlas, while Mazatlán (17) must travel to fourth place Santos Laguna and San Luis (18) hosts fifth-place Tigres.
The two border teams – FC Juárez and Tijuana – are mathematically alive with 16 points but they must win and get lots of help. The Bravos have a more realistic chance than do the Xolos because the latter has such a lousy goal differential (–12) and the former host UNAM. Tijuana, meanwhile, must visit Léon and the Esmeraldas will be trying to improve their playoff seeding.
Liga MX holders sack coach
Despite winning back-to-back Liga MX crowns, Atlas has announced it will let coach Diego Cocca leave.
The Zorros won their first Liga MX championship since 1951 in December last year and followed that up by hoisting the trophy again last season.
Cocca is only the second Liga MX coach to get fired this season, following in the footsteps of Cruz Azul’s Diego Aguirre who was pink-slipped after a humiliating 7-0 loss to América back on Matchday 10.