Pachuca's playoff hopes in jeopardy after scoreless draw against Atlas


Pachuca stumbled to a scoreless draw against host Atlas in the second-to-last round of the Mexican soccer league's Apertura 2018 championship, a result that could jeopardize its chances of qualifying for the eight-team playoffs.

The visiting Tuzos, who are now provisionally in eighth place with 23 points, had every intention of coming away with a victory Friday night at Estadio Jalisco but were unable to produce any offense a week after getting four goals from Victor Guzman in a 6-2 rout of Necaxa.

Atlas had a golden chance to score in the 16th minute on a play that began when Juan Pablo Vigon received a cross from striker Jefferson Duque.

His initial attempt was blocked by a defender and then Pachuca goalkeeper Alfonso Blanco Antunez made two remarkable saves to stop one shot by Jairo Torres and then a final attempt by Vigon.

The play summed up the season thus far for Atlas, which came into the Apertura with high hopes but finds itself in 17th place out of 18 teams with one game remaining and has scored a league-low 10 goals.

Pachuca's best chance of the first half came in the 38th minute, when Franco Jara failed to convert a well-placed cross by Sebastian Palacios in front of the goal.

The hosts then appeared to score two minutes later, but a goal by Duque was disallowed for off-side.

Atlas had the best opportunity of the second half, but Blanco stopped a close-range header by Ismael Govea off a long pass from Cristian Calderon in the 66th minute.

With the draw, Pachuca could fall to ninth place and out of the playoff zone if 10th-place Morelia (22 points) earns a road win Saturday against Tijuana.

One other Apertura Matchday 16 game Friday night between ninth-place Queretaro (23 points) and host Veracruz ended in a 2-2 draw when the visitors got a tying goal from defender Hiram Mier late in second-half injury time.

Five games are on tap for Saturday: first-place Cruz Azul (30 points) versus Lobos BUAP, Leon-Guadalajara, Tigres UANL-Puebla, Necaxa-Monterrey and Tijuana-Morelia.

On Sunday, Toluca will host Pumas UNAM and third-place Santos Laguna (28 points) will receive second place Club America (29 points).

The Apertura regular season ends on Nov. 25.

Eight teams will qualify for the playoffs, which is scheduled to kick off on Nov. 28.

Copyright © 2019, Hoy Los Angeles, una publicación de Los Angeles Times Media Group