Chivas rides Marco Fabian hat trick past Atlas and into liguilla semifinals
GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- A sensational first-half hat trick from Marco Fabian sent Chivas to the semifinals of the Liga MX Clausura, following a 4-1 win in the quarterfinal second leg against city rivals Atlas.
Chivas, who fought relegation for most of the season, ran out comfortable 4-1 aggregate winners in a game that was suspended for 15 minutes in the second half when about 30 Atlas fans poured onto the pitch at the Estadio Jalisco.
Here are three takes from a special evening for Chivas.
1. Fabian on a different level
When Fabian plays like this, it makes you wonder how and why the 25-year-old isn't already in Europe and a regular starter for Mexico's national team.
A spat with Atlas coach Tomas Boy, who accused the Chivas player of spitting at him in the first leg, preceding the game seemed to bring out the best of Fabian. He was in total control of the ball and, as a consequence, the whole match, floating around the pitch and stinging Atlas seemingly at will.
Fabian smashed the first into the top right corner in the fifth minute to tip the scales in favor of Chivas, with the away-goal rule in effect.
Juan Carlos Medina pulled Atlas back just two minutes after the opener, but shortly thereafter Fabian picked up the ball on the left wing, glided inside and sent another long-range effort into the top corner.
The third was perhaps the best, with Fabian receiving the ball inside the area, dancing past two Atlas defenders and deftly finishing six minutes before halftime.
It was a memorable display and one that will go down in the history of the Clasico Tapatio. There has been much talk about a European move for Fabian and there is every reason to think he is now ready, having found consistency and maturity this season.
But while these are the types of games Fabian is made for, he wasn't the only Chivas player that stepped up when it mattered.
Jorge "Chaton" Enriquez had a huge job in replacing Carlos Salcido, but was a rock in the center of the park, winning the battle against the Atlas midfielders. At left-back, Miguel Ponce had his best game in recent memory. In many ways, that 2012 Olympic gold medal-winning generation finally came of age for Chivas, with experienced heads such as Israel Castro, Jair Pereira and Omar Bravo giving the side a solid platform to work from.
Can Chivas win the Clausura? Playing as they did on Sunday, they have absolutely nobody to fear, with archrival Club America and regular season first-place finisher Tigres already out.
2. Boy comes to the end of the road at Atlas
Atlas didn't seem to go out to win the match against Chivas, or get numbers back to defend against away goals. It was like even the players were confused about how they were going to get a result, without a clear game-plan.
That failure falls at the feet of coach Tomas Boy, who may well be heading out of the club in coming days. The decision to play Juan Carlos Valenzuela at left-back and Luis Venegas at right-back from the start set the tone. Neither are full-backs and are both naturally fitted to the opposite flanks they played on.
The coach then introduced natural left back Edgar Castillo in the 29th minute, seemingly recognizing his error. The problem was that Atlas were already 2-1 behind and in need on two goals to go through.
Boy will defend himself and point to his guiding the team to consecutive playoffs and a regular season points total over the Apertura and Clausura that only America and Tigres surpassed.
At the end of the day, Atlas were dominated at home in the Apertura quarterfinal by Monterrey and lost in cruel fashion to their bitter city rivals on Sunday.
A club with money and big ambition, it's time for a new and perhaps fresher face to come in and get to work on a team that has all the essentials to be a regular playoff contender.
It was perhaps telling that Boy didn't turn up to the post-match press conference.
3. Violence erupts during game
There is a certain irony that in a sold out stadium in which 90 percent aren't segregated, it was in the part made exclusively of Atlas fans that violence broke out.
The hard-core Atlas barra -- Los 51s -- has a reputation in Mexican football. and the passion and pain of defeat spilled over into needless stupidity just after Omar Bravo had scored Chivas' fourth in the 54th to make it 4-1.
First one fan ran onto the pitch and was cheered by Atlas fans, then came about 30 others, before police and security managed to stem the flow from behind the goal that was defended by Chivas keeper Luis Michel. It was a dangerous situation.
The game was stopped for about 15 minutes as security tried to stop fans jumping the barrier and getting onto the field. Players moved to the touchline for safety, with Michel sprinting the length of the field to avoid some fans. TV pictures showed disgraceful scenes that reflect poorly not just on Atlas but all of Mexican football.
There had been a heavy security presence before the game, but a meaningful and thorough review of how big games at the Estadio Jalisco are policed needs to take place, before there is an altogether more serious incident with tragic consequences.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.