Pablo Barrera (pictured) celebrates after scoring one of his two goals in a Liga MX Apertura match at Puebla on November 20, 2016. (Photo: Federico Gutierrez/Straffon Images)
PUEBLA, Mexico – Thanks to a 3-0 victory at Puebla on Sunday night, Pumas clinched a spot in the 2016 Liga MX Apertura playoffs as the sixth seed and set a quarterfinal date with Tigres, a fellow 2016/17 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinalist.
After missing out on the 2016 Clausura playoffs, UNAM earned a place in the final eight under first-year head Juan Francisco Palencia, a legend at the club as a player.
Team captain Luis Fuentes said a full team effort was required in order for Pumas to make a Liguilla return.
“It was fundamental to win, it had been worked on so well during the season,” said the 30-year-old defender, who started each of the 17 regular-season games. “This is a reward for the effort of all the players, coaching staff, directors and all those that helped the team.”
The win over Puebla was not as easy as the final score may indicate. Pablo Barrera snapped a scoreless draw eight minutes into the second with the first of his two goals, punctuating the scoreline in the 80th minute. In between, Matias Brito made it 2-0 with his seventh goal of the campaign.
The three-goal haul increased Pumas’ season total to 28 and gave validity to Palencia’s emphasis on a more attacking style of play.
“We managed to achieve the first objective for a relatively new template, new in terms of the idea, not in terms of names and the total support to “Paco” of wanting to play football differently,” commented defender Gerardo Alcoba.
Despite a few uneven points throughout the season – never winning two straight games -- Britos said the squad always maintained confidence.
“We always depended on ourselves,” he finished. “We depended on ourselves the entire season. We didn’t fear missing out. Thank God, we did our job well.”
Pumas will host third-place Tigres on Wednesday to open their quarterfinal series, before the action shifts to San Nicolas de los Garza on November 26.