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Chivas win in the battle of the wounded giants

There was a time not too long ago that there would be no doubt a game between Chivas and Pumas in Guadalajara would be a sell-out. The fact that no-one in their right mind thought the same before Sunday’s game says a lot about the state of two of Mexico’s “big four.” In the end, Chivas took the game 1-0 -- recording their second win of the season -- thanks to a defensive error that allowed Rafael Marquez Lugo to steal in and finish in the 13th minute, but the game was a stale affair in which neither team really showed many moments of quality. What is becoming increasingly apparent from the noises coming out of the club is that it may have been the last appearance in the Omnilife as a Guadalajara player for a number of the current squad. Coach Juan Carlos Ortega changed it up at the start of the game, with Luis Michel, Kristian Alvarez and Nestor Vidrio all on the bench and Tono Rodriguez, Abraham Coronado and Angel Zaldivar replacing them, as Chivas sought to end a streak of 12 games without a win. “It is a small, important gain due to what we have lived through this tournament,” commented Ortega in the press conference after the game. “We are also realistic in that we have to improve.” Ortega was right, but there were a couple of important positives. Patricio Araujo played at centre-back -- as he used to as a youth player -- and excelled, winning praise from Ortega in the postgame press conference. And if Jorge “Chaton” Enriquez was on owner Jorge Vergara and sporting president Dennis te Kloese’s transfer list after his form nose-dived following the Olympics, the midfielder’s performance would’ve made them think twice.

Chaton was a calming presence in the centre of the field, tackling and using his brain to not get caught out of position, as he has too often recently. In the 35th minute, the 22-year-old won, controlled and sent the ball through to Zaldivar to create a chance he really should’ve done better with. Another 10 minutes later, he made a last ditch tackle on the edge of the box to stop what looked to be a certain goal for Pumas. On the negative side of things, Aldo de Nigris still hasn’t found the rhythm he had at Monterrey since arriving at Chivas, although that can be partly put down to injuries. De Nigris is one of the players who has worn his heart on his sleeve for Chivas this season. Off the field, a fans’ protest at the end of the game will make headlines and likely provoke a strong reaction from the club.

“Vergara out” was one of about five banners that fans held up. “Patience has run out,” was another, as well as “Don’t play with history.” But the two that will really cause serious friction read “Leave or die,” apparently aimed at the club’s owners and “The cemetery before relegation”. It is no surprise fans are protesting considering the state of the club, but such sentiments should have no place at any stadium or in any sport. There was also a scuffle in the stands after the game, seemingly between the same group of supporters who left the banners. There will be more to follow on this blog about protests against the club’s ownership.

“We respect freedom of expression,” said Ortega in respect to the banners. “We are a country that respects differences of opinion.” It was an ugly end for what should’ve been a rare moment of joy for Chivas this year. Next up is the final game of the season against Monterrey on Saturday. It will be last opportunity for some of Chivas’ current players to prove that they belong with the Rebano Sagrado and a chance to finally draw a line under a sorry Apertura.