Liga MX review: Gignac breaks record, Dos Santos stars for America
Round three of games in the 2019 Apertura brought a new club goal-scoring record, a dream Club America debut in Estadio Azteca for Giovani dos Santos and another abysmal result for Veracruz.
Here's the breakdown.
Gignac breaks Boy's Tigres goal-scoring record
Andre-Pierre Gignac headed in an 89th minute winner for Tigres at Pumas to earn a 1-0 victory and stand alone on 105 goals as the club's highest ever goal-scorer, overtaking Tomas Boy.
It was a typical Gignac goal, ghosting into space between the Pumas centre-backs and directing a firm header from a right-wing cross into the bottom corner of the goal.
Before then, Gignac hadn't had a great game -- in fact, he only touched the ball 18 times over the 90 minutes, six times fewer than any of the other starters from either team -- but his work-rate at altitude in Mexico City under the intense midday sun was commendable and the 33-year-old showed up when it mattered.
As usual, Gignac flashed the sign of the "Libres y Lokos" barra that had travelled to support Tigres after scoring; the kind of gesture that means he'll go down as Tigres' most popular ever player, even if the 'best-ever' label, or 'best-ever foreigner' in Mexico title is still up for debate.
"I'm thankful to my teammates and to 'Chaka' [Rodriguez] for sending me over the great cross, to the coaching staff, the directors, the institution for giving me the opportunity to be part of the history of Tigres," said Gignac after the game. "My family and I will be thankful until death."
For Michel's Pumas, there were more positives then negatives, despite the result, with the team only conceding four shots on target over its first three games so far. If the university team's finishing had been better in the first half, Gignac's golden moment may have been a consolation goal instead of the game-winner.
Santos Laguna the team of the tournament, so far
The team to watch this Apertura is Guillermo Almada's Santos Laguna. That's not only because Los Guerreros are the only club with nine points from the first three rounds of games, but also because of the way the team has achieved them.
Friday's 2-1 victory over Atlas in Estadio Jalisco was deserved, even if the home side put up a stern fight. The first goal highlighted the high pressing that Almada is demanding and that is causing opposition players so many problems early this season. When Atlas defender Diego Barbosa was caught in possession by Brian Lozano -- who smashed in a finish -- for the opening goal, it was clearly a mistake, but also part of a gameplan to stop Atlas playing out from the back.
It's not only the pressing though. Santos Laguna is maintaining a vertical style, has had more shots on target than any other side and is second in chances created. It tops the Expected Goals (xG) charts by almost two more goals than any other side (7.92 for Santos Laguna to Pumas' 6.01).
What's more, Almada has enjoyed a positive start to the Apertura after making the kind of selection decisions that had the potential to upset the locker room. Playing Ulises Rivas in place of Jose Juan "Gallito" Vazquez as the holding midfielder was a huge decision, while captain Jose Abella was dropped for Carlos Orrantia and Diego Valdes has been sitting on the bench while young Mexican forward Adrian Lozano impresses.
Brian Lozano added the second for Santos and has been the outstanding player of the season so far -- it'll be fascinating to see whether he can keep it up, as well as whether more experienced and wily managers can find a way to counter Almada's refreshing playing idea.
Dos Santos' Azteca debut tainted by Castillo injury blow
Giovani dos Santos couldn't have dreamt up a better home debut for Club America. After coming on just before half-time, the 30-year-old went on to provide an assist and then score to secure a 3-1 victory for Las Aguilas over a battling Club Tijuana.
But while Dos Santos earned the headlines, the news Nico Castillo had fractured his fibula and will be out for three months put a negative twist on Saturday's win. Combined with the sales of Argentina goalkeeper Agustin Marchesin and Colombia midfielder Mateus Uribe -- as well as Edson Alvarez to Ajax a couple of weeks ago -- it's been a hectic time for Club America sporting director Santiago Banos.
Dos Santos stepped up on Saturday when required but, with Castillo now out, he'll need to do so consistently from now on. And while America still has a strong team -- an attack of Renato Ibarra, Dos Santos, Roger Martinez and Andres Ibarguen is hardly weak -- there's a need to do some smart business in what remains of the transfer window.
The big question hanging over America is whether Banos and the club's owners can persuade Guillermo Ochoa that the smart move for him to make is to return to Las Aguilas. After all the multi-million dollar sales, the money is surely there to turn a lot of players' heads towards Estadio Azteca.
Futbol returns to Juarez
"Juarez es el number one," read the banner on the side of the stadium as FC Juarez and Toluca walked out inside Estadio Olympic Benito Juarez. Ahead of kick-off, there was a minute's silence ahead of the match for the tragic shooting in neighbouring El Paso on Saturday. All of which highlighted that, like Club Tijuana, Juarez is a Liga MX club with one foot on each side of the U.S.-Mexico border.
It feels good to have them back, even if the fact the ownership bought out Lobos BUAP to take its place in the league wasn't exactly ideal from a sporting fairness point of view.
Gabriel Caballero's side responded to the big occasion with a 2-0 victory over Toluca on Sunday. This Juarez team was put together in a rush, but it showed spirit and a much-improved performance as goals from Angelo Sagal and Mauro Fernandez rounded off a fine display in intense heat on the border.
For Toluca, this has been a disappointing start to the Apertura, with only one point to show from the first three games. The pressure in already on coach Ricardo La Volpe.
Another embarrassment for Veracruz
Necaxa 7-0 Veracruz. It's a scoreline that should be a freak, but Veracruz lost 9-2 to Pachuca in April and is without a Liga MX win now in 29 games, or almost a year. What makes it even worse is that Necaxa had looked really poor in its first two games of the season while Veracruz had tentatively seemed to show improvement under Enrique Meza.
Veracruz was relegated last season, but allowed to pay a fine to remain in Liga MX, which expanded to 19 teams. As things stand, it's difficult to understand the rationale behind that particular decision.