• Sunday Nov 27, 2016

    Pachuca targets playoff rebound against Necaxa

    Pachuca's Ruben Botta (white/blue jersey) tries to hold off Manuel Iturra of host Necaxa during their Liga MX Apertura quarterfinal, first leg on November 24, 2016, in Aguascalientes. (Photo: Victor Straffon/Straffon Images)

    AGUASCALIENTES, Mexico – Overcoming a 2-1 loss at Necaxa to open the 2016 Liga MX Apertura quarterfinals Thursday may not be as daunting to Pachuca as would initially appear heading into Sunday night’s second leg. 

    The defending champion, after all, was unbeaten at home during regular season with 6-3-0 mark, scoring a league-best 23 goals – six more than its nearest competitor. Additionally, Pachuca won 1-0 on July 30, when it hosted the Rayos in week three play. 

    While he wasn’t pleased with the overall performance against Necaxa, head coach Diego Alonso saw enough good things from his Tuzos in the second half that he’s looking for a carry-over effect. 

    “Among the objectives that were in play, one was to score and the other to not lose,” Alonso said after the first leg. “We wanted to maintain the draw. Sadly, we were not able to get it. I think that we did not play a good first half. You have to be self-critical. We did not play well. In the second half, we played much better and the match turned even.” 

    Necaxa’s first goal in the 33rd minute off Luis Gallegos’ speculative, long-distance effort resulted in a rare miscue by veteran goalkeeper Óscar Perez. Alonso was quick to take the pressure off the 43-year-old custodian, pointing out his heroics against Monterrey in the 2015 Clausura final and acknowledging that errors are part of the game. 

    “We came out winners last season thanks to Oscar. He has had great performances,” noted the Uruguayan. “Today’s is an error that we have already left in the past. We accept it. It’s something that can happen. One can make a mistake and the other players can make mistakes.” 

    That’s something Pachuca, a 2016/17 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinalist, will need to avoid if it wishes to keep its repeat hopes alive.

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