History awaits flawless Chivas

Guadalajara’s start to the 2010 Bicentenario season in Mexico has been nothing short of sensational: seven wins in seven games, with 17 goals scored (more than any other side in the land), and only six conceded (a record bettered only by Monarcas Morelia). Leaders by five points from defending champions Monterrey, Chivas also have the country’s top scorer in their ranks, Javier Hernandez, who has hit eight goals in six games so far this season.

It comes as no surprise to learn, then, that Los Rojiblancos’s flying start is a record-breaking one. With last week’s 3-2 win over Puebla they set a new mark for the best ever start in the history of Mexican professional football. And should they register an eighth successive win over Real San Luis this weekend they will take the overall Mexican record, one they currently share with Marte, who strung together seven season-opening wins in 1928, when the league was still in its amateur days.

A welcome surprise
Not even the most die-hard of Chivas fans could have expected such riches from their heroes in red-and-white at the start of the campaign. As in previous close seasons, the club was largely absent from the transfer market, making just one new signing by welcoming former goalscoring idol Adolfo Bautista back to the fold.

Though the return of Bofo was greeted enthusiastically, he had just endured a dismal campaign with Jaguares and lacked the match sharpness necessary for a place in the starting XI. Aside from his arrival, the squad was exactly the same as the one that had failed to reach the 2009 Apertura play-offs. Expectations were dampened further by the fact that coach Jose Luis Real possessed very little top-flight experience.

Guadalajara could not have hoped for a much tougher start to their Bicentenario bid either, with the fixture list pitting them against habitual title contenders Toluca on the opening day. Against all the odds, however, Chivas swept to a comfortable 3-1 win, with two of the goals coming from the young Hernandez, soon to become the fans’ new hero.

Nice football, great results
After toppling Toluca, Guadalajara then tamed Tigres 3-1 at their Nuevo Leon stronghold before overcoming Estudiantes Tecos 3-2 at the fortress-like Estadio Jalisco. A 2-0 defeat of Queretaro made it four wins out of four and had Rojiblancos fans sensing that their unfancied team had something special about them.

The free-scoring Hernandez has been the star of the show so far. Nicknamed El Chicharito (the Little Pea), the 21-year-old took his tally to eight goals in five games when he struck in the 2-0 win over Atlante, victory number five of the season. His scoring surge was then halted by injury on the eve of the game at Pachuca.

Nevertheless, that setback allowed Chivas to show that they are more than just a one-man band. Holding firm in the intimidating surroundings of the Estadio Hidalgo, thanks to the experience of Mexico internationals Aaron Galindo and Jonny Magallon in the heart of defence and Luis Michel in goal, Guadalajara extended their perfect start with a solitary strike from young midfielder Ivan Baez.

That hard-fought triumph took them to within one of a new record for the professional era, a record that would come their way if they could beat Puebla at home in their next game. Despite the fervent support of a packed crowd, Chivas were made to work hard for their historic win. With Hernandez restored to fitness but starting the game on the bench, a revitalised Bautista struck twice to give the hosts a seemingly impregnable 3-1 lead with 48 minutes on the clock.

Puebla had not read the script, however, and reduced the deficit before staging a furious but fruitless late assault on the Rojiblanco goal. After seeing his side hang on for three more points, a relieved Real described it as “the toughest game of the season so far”. The coach is sure to be chewing his nails once more against San Luis this Saturday, when his all-conquering side set off in search of a place in Mexican footballing history.