First leg of semifinal 'Super Clásico' ends scoreless as Chivas extend shutout streak

Defending Liga MX champs seemed befuddled by the swarming Guadalajara defense
Alan Mozo and the physical Chivas defense kept the defending Liga MX champs in check all night. Guadalajara and América played to a scoreless draw in the first leg of their semifinal series on Wednesday.
Alan Mozo and the physical Chivas defense kept the defending Liga MX champs in check all night. Guadalajara and América played to a scoreless draw in the first leg of their semifinal series on Wednesday. / Simon Barber/GettyImages

Guadalajara shut down América’s high-flying offense but could not find the net themselves and the first leg of the “Super Clásico” semifinals ended in a scoreless draw.

The Chivas held the Aguilas to 6 harmless shots – only 3 on target, all easily handled by Raúl Rangel – while posting their sixth consecutive shutout.

Fernando Gago’s 4-5-1 alignment frustrated América’s playmakers as the five midfielders swarmed after the ball, clogging passing lanes and forcing hurried decisions. That led to innumerable sterile possessions for the defending champs despite 

The Aguilas didn’t get a sniff at goal until late in the match and in both instances the chance was wasted. Diego Valdés botched a close-range volley at the back post in minute 66 and Brian Rodríguez scuffed an open look in minute 89, his shot rolling into the hands of Rangel.

Malagón up to the task

At the other end of the pitch, Luis Malagón had a busier night

América seemed timid carrying out of its own end and poor passing compounded the problem. 

That led to some early-strike chances for Guadalajara but the Aguilas goalie was quick off his line, twice snuffing Ricardo Marín opportunities deep in the box.

With long stretches of the match bogged down in midfield, a scoreless draw was not hard to see coming considering the Chivas’ recent form and América’s status as the top defense in Liga MX.

As a result, the first Liga MX finalist will emerge from Estadio Azteca where “El Rebaño Sagrado” must score to advance. 

As the lower seed, Guadalajara must outscore the Aguilas to eliminate the champs whereas América could move on to defend its Liga MX title with another scoreless draw.

And in the other semifinal ...

Second-seeded Cruz Azul is in Monterrey to take on the 4th-seeded Rayados, determined to defy history and advance to its first final in three years. 

Monterrey has bounced Cruz Azul each of the past three times they’ve met in elimination series and they lead 4-2 all time in Liga MX playoff confrontations.

The visiting Rayados routed the Cementeros 4-1 in a Apertura 2021 wildcard series; dusted “La Máquina Azul” 3-0 on aggregate in the Apertura 2022 quarterfinals and whipped Cruz Azul 5-1 on aggregate in the 2021 Concacaf Champions League semifinals.

The only two times "The Blue Machine" eliminated Monterrey those series finished all even on the scoreboard, but Cruz Azul moved on because they were the higher seed.

As that is the case this season, the Cementeros would settle for an aggregate draw, but that’s not the way this Martín Anselmi-led club operates. 

Cruz Azul attacks on offense and defense, often playing on the edge with aggressiveness. Still, despite leaving themselves open to counterattacks, the Cementeros ended the Clausura 2024 as the second-best defense in Liga MX, conceding 14 goals in 17 games.

For its part, the Rayados are emerging from a mini-slump that dropped them from first place into fourth and saw them crash out of the Concacaf Champions Cup in the semifinals.

The 0-1-3 slump included a 2-1 loss at Cruz Azul on Matchday 14 but a 5-2 win at Necaxa in the season finale saved Monterrey from relegation to the Play-In Tournament.

Last week, the Rayados dispatched crosstown rivals Tigres in the quarterfinals while displaying some of the flair that had them undefeated through the first 12 matches of the Clausura 2024.

Monterrey was 5-3-1 at home this season, while “La Máquina Azul” was 4-2-2 on the road. 

The return match is set for Sunday evening in Mexico City.

Welcome to Liga MX, Domenec!

Overlooked in a recent report about coaching changes in Liga MX was Atlético de San Luis’ decision to part ways with Gustavo Leal after a rough 5-1-11 season that started with two victories.

On Wednesday, Atleti announced the hiring of Domenec Torrent, Pep Guardiola’s former right-hand man.

Torrent joined Guardiola’s staff at Barcelona in 2007 as a scout and was elevated to top assistant when Pep moved to Bayern Munich. The 61-year-old Catalonian continued to sit alongside Guardiola at Manchester City until leaving for the top job at MLS club NYCFC. 

Torrent later coached at Brazil’s Flamengo and most recently was head man at Galatasaray. 

The new coach is expected to install a high-pressing tactical style that has become associated with Guardiola and his acolytes. We can expect to see Atleti attempt to turn defense into quick offense, a strategy that should excite the fans at the Estadio Alfonso Lastras.