Guadalajara and Toluca served up an early Game of the Year candidate with a high-octane display that ended with the host Chivas finding the winner in minute 81.
Crisp passing, clever playmaking and sparkling goaltending were provided by both teams, especially in a first half that ended 2-2. The teams combined for 35 shots – 15 of which were on target – with both under-siege goalies making 5 saves each.
After struggling in his first season with Guadalajara, Ricardo Marín made his Clausura 2024 debut a memorable one, knocking home the go-ahead goal after coming on as a sub in the second half.
Supplying the assist was Chivas rookie Armando González who had entered the game only moment earlier. Gonzlález – 20, and in just his second Liga MX game – nearly got his first goal in minute 90, racing behind the defense only to slide his shot just wide left.
Chivas land early punch, Toluca responds
With J.J. Macías given the night off and “Chicharito” Hernández watching from the stands, coach Fernando Gago went with a three-man front line that did not feature a lead striker. Cade Cowell, “Piojo” Alvarado and Pável Pérez were given the task of attacking the Toluca defense and that they did with aplomb.
Less than 30 seconds into the match, Fernando Beltrán took a drop pass from Alvarado and sliced open the Toluca defense with a seeing-eye shot. Fans had to wait 2 minutes for the goal to be confirmed, but ref Fernando Hernández ignored replay evidence of a foul by “Pocho” Guzmán that led directly to the goal.
Toluca equalized just 5 minutes later off a great run down the left flank by Edgar López. “El Gacelo” got behind his marker and sent a low cross into the box where Chivas rookie Mateo Chávez mishit his clearance attempt. The ball ricocheted off the left post and goalie José Rangel twisted back toward his line to swat the ball clear but Marcel Ruiz was there to smack it into the net.
Guadalajara then crafted several scoring chances in quick succession.
Diablos Rojos keeper Tiago Volpi made a fantastic reflex save off Gilberto Sepúlveda header from free kick in minute 20, though the play was whistled dead for offside. Two minutes later, a Maxi Araujo-Edgar López give-and-go sent Maxi in alone on goal but he shot wide of the far post.
“Pocho” then lobbed the Toluca defense to Beltrán who had drifted in unnoticed but he bounced a header right to Volpi. “Pocho” then had two consecutive scoring chances, sending a back-post volley over the bar before failing to beat Volpi with a point-blank header.
Collision sends top Chivas defender to hospital
The Chivas saw their momentum interrupted when the callow Chávez raced out of position to chase down a high ball only to crack heads with teammate Sepúlveda.
While Chávez had his head wound wrapped up, “Tiba” was immobilized and taken directly to the locker room for medical care after taking a shot to the face. Coach Gago later confirmed that Sepúlveda has a facial fracture and he is expected to miss some time – perhaps up to three months.
Toluca took advantage of the scare and nearly scored on their next possession, with Tomás Belmont ripping a shot just wide of the right post.
“El Rebaño Sagrado” answered promptly, recovering a loose ball after another midfield collision (reminiscent of Guadalajara’s first goal). Pérez scooped up the ball and dribbled around two defenders into the right side of the box and sneaking a shot inside the right post past a fast-closing Volpi.
It looked like the Chivas would take a lead into the locker room, but “Los Choriceros” said “not so fast!”
A Jean Meneses-Araujo give-and-go freed Maxi to the touch line to left of goal and his low cross zipped across box to Brian García who was closing on the back side from his right fullback position. García thumped the ball into the back of an empty net as Rangel had no chance to scramble from goalpost to goalpost.
Frantic pace continues in second half
The second half featured more end-to-end rushes but the finishing by both teams was lacking.
Chivas goalie Rangel prevented an own-goal, palming the ball around the right post after Jesús Orozco inadvertently redirected a Toluca shot with his head. In minute 76, Meneses sailed a left-footer just over the crossbar after a nice Toluca move into the box.
For Guadalajara’s part, “Pocho” Guzmán barely missed a shot from distance in minute 69 after a nifty assist from Alvarado, and after a flurry of substitutions by both coaches, the game sputtered a bit. Until Marín’s heroics.
Toluca desperately chased the equalizer but was unable to get a shot on target and Guadalajara left Estadio Akron with their first win of the Clausura 2024.
Toluca now sits in eighth place with 5 points, just ahead of ninth place Guadalajara on goal difference (+2 to 0). The Diablos Rojos return home for a date against 10th place León on Saturday while the Chivas pay a visit to seventh place Atlético de San Luis on Monday.