Chivas lose again, relegation looms
GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- Chivas announced a commercial alliance with Mercedes-Benz ahead of kickoff on Sunday in the Estadio Omnilife, but it was the finely-tuned engine of Santos Laguna's Darwin Quintero that made the difference on the field.
As Chivas' forwards spluttered and misfired once again, the Colombian ran almost the full length of the field in a swift counter from a Chivas corner two minutes from the end of the game. Quintero slalomed past the last Chivas defender, Jesus Sanchez, rounded keeper Antonio Rodriguez and slotted the ball in to hand Los Guerreros a 1-0 victory.
Chivas had huffed and puffed all match and were actually the better side for long periods, but that hasn't stopped the pressure on a club in danger of relegation ratcheting up another notch.
Loud boos greeted the final whistle, one fan held up a banner demanding more from the players and the fans sang songs about the players putting more effort in -- although the words were far from being that polite.
Outside the owners' box, private security were on hand, presumably to guard against any further disturbances and fans attempting to get in to give those running the club a piece of their mind, as has happened before.
The result means that Chivas have now lost five consecutive games in all competitions after beginning the season with a wave of optimism following the signing of seven new faces to bolster the squad.
The club is now above only Puebla (by two points) and Leones Negros in the relegation table. Another couple of winless games and Chivas could be in last place, with one team due to face the drop to the second division next May.
On the field on Sunday, Chivas played well in the first half and Angel Reyna was at the heart of most of the team's good things.
The 29-year-old playmaker was given a free role, with Omar Bravo and Carlos Fierro playing as strikers and Aldo de Nigris dropped to the bench in a change of formation by the coach from a 5-2-3 to more of a 5-2-1-2.
Former Chivas captain Oswaldo Sanchez -- who lifted the club's last league title -- was booed every time he received the ball, but produced two key saves from Fierro to keep Santos in the game.
Despite Chivas enjoying 68 percent of possession and controlling the midfield, the fundamental problem with the side remains the same: a lack of goals caused largely by players who are running low on confidence.
Fierro, Omar Bravo and De Nigris all look tentative in front of goal. They are taking extra touches instead of shooting and are making erroneous decisions inside the penalty area.
The pressure is obviously making itself felt and punctuates the atmosphere inside the stadium, especially with the boos.
"Fans have every right to complain because results haven't been good," said manager Carlos Bustos in the news conference after the game, adding that the result was "unjust."
Chivas tend to start off games quite well and tail off -- especially at home -- when the crowd gets noticeably restless, the boos start to be heard and the players sense that little bit of fear. Away teams now know that, and the game against Santos was a perfect example.
These are undoubtedly dark times for Chivas, made worse by the fact the club's two biggest rivals -- America and Atlas -- are sitting in first and second place, respectively, in the Liga MX, while the Rebano Sagrado stalls in its attempt to move away from relegation danger.
Traditionally, owner Jorge Vergara has reacted to these situations by firing coaches. Bustos' future is, therefore, now far from certain, with the specter of Jose Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre in the background, still waiting for work after leaving the Mexico national team last September.
Tom Marshall has been based in Guadalajara since 2008 and has written about Mexican football ever since. Find him on Twitter @MexicoWorldCup.