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Santos Laguna, Toluca linked by their owners

Liga MX
Read
 By Tom Marshall

Upstart Pumas shock Tigres, America flying high and Chivas a mess

Alejandro Arribas celebrates after scoring a goal for Pumas in a win against Tigres.
Alejandro Arribas celebrates after scoring a goal for Pumas in an upset win over Tigres.

It was arguably the best weekend of action so far in the Liga MX 2018 Clausura, with a total of 25 goals scored, seven red cards and some surprising outcomes.

Here are five takeaways from the fifth round of matches.

1. Alustiza masterclass downs Tigres

Matias Alustiza was majestic for Pumas in the university team's 2-0 win over Tigres on Sunday.

In a sport with lower scoring than many others and in which individual moments can decide the result, it was Alustiza who produced to down the reigning champions in Estadio Olimpico Universitario.

The Argentine toyed with the Tigres defense with some footwork Lionel Messi would've been proud of before distributing the ball out wide for Pablo Barrera, who crossed for Spaniard Alejandro Arribas to head in and open the scoring for Pumas.

Alustiza then latched onto a through-ball from Barrera in the 35th minute and chipped the ball over Nahuel Guzman to add Pumas' second.

It was an important win for Pumas, while Ricardo Ferretti -- who stated last week that he'll likely retire in 2020 -- will be furious that his team rolled over so meekly.

2. Henry helps America soar, Chivas plummet

The contrast in fortunes of Mexico's biggest two clubs came into focus this weekend.

Club America displayed perhaps its best performance since Miguel Herrera took over for the second time last May. Lobos BUAP had no chance, especially after Francisco "Maza" Rodriguez was sent off in the 27th minute. The 5-1 victory on Saturday even featured a first goal in a Club America shirt for French forward Jeremy Menez as well as a hat trick for Mexico international Henry Martin, which will boost his hopes of making Russia 2018.

It all gave the distinct impression that Las Aguilas are on track this Clausura, but the same cannot be said for Chivas. Matias Almeyda's team suffered a 2-0 defeat away at Puebla on Friday in another poor display.

Chivas have now won only five of their past 22 Liga MX games since lifting the 2017 Clausura title. If Mexico had a European-style league and relegation system, Chivas would be worried about the drop. Only Veracruz and Queretaro have picked up fewer points since the start of the 2017 Apertura.

It's easy to point to the center of defense and the need for Jair Pereira (injured) and Oswaldo Alanis (left on bench) to be reunited as soon as possible, but that wouldn't tell the full story.

There's something deeper going wrong at Chivas, with Almeyda not happy with the offseason signings and the relationship between the Argentine, CEO Jose Luis Higuera and owner Jorge Vergara not altogether clear.

Then there's the poor form of players. Orbelin Pineda's dip goes beyond a bad patch now and is concerning, while Jesus "Chapo" Sanchez, Edwin "Aris" Hernandez and others are a long way off the level they showed in the team's 2017 Clausura championship season.

Chivas need a lift from somewhere ahead of next week's home game against Santos Laguna, but right now it's hard to tell where that lift might come from.

3. Relegation race blown open

This could've been the weekend when we pretty much bid farewell to Veracruz as a first-division team, but the relegation fight might not be done and dusted after the Tiburones Rojos defeated Queretaro 1-0 on Saturday.

The result leaves Veracruz seven points behind Queretaro with 12 games to go for each, but then there is Lobos BUAP, who are now 17th in the relegation table and in real danger if they can't start picking up points.

But more than anything, the victory showed signs that this Veracruz team is up for the battle.

4. Donovan coming too late for Leon

Wild swings in form are nothing new at Leon in recent years. They were notable under previous managers Luis Fernando Tena and Javier Torrente.

But this Clausura, Leon has been particularly unpredictable, starting with two wins and a draw and capitulating 4-0 to Necaxa and following that last Saturday with a 5-1 loss away at Monterrey.

Landon Donovan is due to make his debut next weekend against Puebla, but the real issue now is whether current coach Gustavo Diaz can do what Tena and Torrente failed to do and turn the situation around before it slides out of control.

5. Surprise title candidates?

Puebla defeating Chivas? Morelia winning 3-2 away at Pachuca? Club Tijuana going 450 minutes without conceding a goal? Pumas comfortably picking up the three points against Tigres?

There have been a few surprises so far this Clausura, with Pumas level on 11 points at the top of the league with Monterrey and Club America. Behind them is Morelia -- a side proving that its fine 2017 was no fluke, even if there was some fortune in the penalty leading to Saturday's winner -- a water-tight Club Tijuana, the surprise package Puebla and then Santos Laguna in seventh.

Usual suspects such as Chivas, Pachuca, Toluca, Cruz Azul and Leon are all outside the playoff places at present. Although these are still admittedly early days in the season, the Clausura is setting up to be an interesting one that could come down to the wire.

Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.

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