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May 9, 2014

Beware the Santos comeback

Santos will have to overcome a two-goal deficit for the second time in the liguilla in order to advance to the final.
Santos will have to overcome a two-goal deficit for the second time in the liguilla in order to advance to the final.
LOS ANGELES -- Sealed, signed and delivered, Pachuca seal Santos' fate: 2-0.

The problem is that Santos believe they are "warriors" as their nickname states. They are perhaps a team to be written off, but only after their ashes have been removed and sprinkled into the crater of the Popocatepetl volcano.

- Canales: Pachuca seize the advantage

America left them for dead: 5-3 at the Azteca. Yet Santos went from being the prey to being the predator with a 3-1 win at the TSM.

Certainly: Pachuca boss Enrique Meza is wiser, smarter, more studious, bolder and less arrogant than Antonio "Turco" Mohamed, yet the fighting spirit of Santos is very much alive.

This Wednesday, in one last ditch attempt, they hit the crossbar twice. Oscar "Conejo" Perez defended well, surpassing his rival Oswaldo Sanchez , who was responsible for conceding both goals.

And what of Pachuca? Nice to watch, full of young talent, boldness, commitment, and players, who in some cases lost the faith of all the other clubs they played for. They take charge, deal with the options set before them, try to show no mercy, and yet, they can even afford to leave their disciplined and noble scorer Enner Valencia up front on his own.

Can Santos win? They could, they certainly want to and therefore surely they must.

In addition to the recent redemption or resurrection against America, in general, this tournament has been full of examples of Santos' determination.

From the start: Santos, in their first game without hardly any preseason practice, fall behind against Chivas, only to return fighting, achieving the draw, even showing signs of mercy through a series of near-misses on goal.

Or away against Tigres, Alan Pulido opens the game with a goal for Tigres 1-0, yet Santos go on to draw and towards the end even look to be the better team.

Or even the above mentioned America. Rubens Sambueza and Andres Rios put America in front, yet ultimately, Santos humiliate them by winning 4-2 at the Azteca Stadium.

And even Pachuca themselves. Jurgen Damm had put them in the lead with a score of 0-1 at the TSM, yet in the end, they conceded three goals in the last 20 minutes of the game, leaving the final score at 3-1.

Examples abound: they were losing 1-0 to Morelia at Morelos, only to go on to finish 2-2. Or through a goal by Martin Bravo, Pumas was beating Santos, yet Santos went on to win the game 2-1.

Yet another example that springs to mind: Monterrey 2-0. The final score? 2-2. Veracruz imposed themselves on the game by starting 1-0 yet the final outcome was 2-2.

Yes, it's clear. This Santos team likes to play dead.

The problem is their weakened defense, especially taking into account the mistakes made by Sanchez during the last three games, not to mention the strong defeat they suffered in the Copa Libertadores.

Another problem lies in the fact that Meza has already witnessed this type of miraculous comeback, and generally he tends to learn from his past experiences.

Has Santos head coach Pedro Caixinha been too complacent? Definitely it was too late on in the game when he finally decided to try to take control, to get the guns out, to amend the game. A game, that without a doubt he had handled well, yet had lost control of after grave errors in judgment made by his usually reliable and veteran goalkeeper Sanchez.

The second leg will be different in every way. Nevertheless, Caixinha must understand that he is not facing America or Mohammed, but a team, no doubt more inexperienced, yet led by one of the most astute, experienced coaches currently involved in this tournament.

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