By DANIEL PRICE
Barely a month has passed since Club León were celebrating in Estadio Azteca, yet arguably the best two sides in Mexico were back in the capital this weekend to contest the most eagerly anticipated fixture of Jornada 3.
All eyes were on Carlos Peña to see if he could continue his fine goalscoring start to the season or if America’s defence would be able to keep him out, yet by the time the curtain fell there was only one talking point, the performance of match referee Paul Delgadillo.
The spectacle didn’t live up to the heights of the Apertura final, and whilst León had the best of a drab first half, the period ended goalless with the main talking point being Maza’s foul on Peña in the area, many believing there was a justifiable cause to award León a penalty.
America came out the stronger in the second half, before the game’s main controversy arose in the 67th minute. Raúl Jiménez broke free before being brought down on the edge of the box by the sliding Juan Gonzalez. Referee Delgadillo awarded America a penalty kick but replays would show there was barely contact between the two, and any touch that did occur happened outside of the box.
León were naturally incensed, and after Jiménez had dusted himself off to slot home the penalty and the players were making their way back for the restart, Luís Montes was dismissed for arguing too vociferously with the referee. Further controversy ensued just over ten minutes before full time, as León thought they had a penalty as Delgadillo first pointed to the spot, before allowing his linesman to overrule him and awarding America a free kick for offside instead.
Here is a look back at the highlights of Round 3 in Liga MX:
QUERETARO SLIP FROM TOP SPOT
For many fans of Gallos Blancos it was too good to be true – going into the weekend action they were the only side with a 100% record and they were rightly confident of following up their two highly creditable 1-0 wins with a victory against a Monterrey side that had been struggling to find its rhythm in the opening two matches.
Querétaro started brightly and led just after the half hour mark as William Da Silva thrashed home a powerful strike, beating Orozco at his near post.
One goal is never enough, however, and within 3 minutes of the restart Monterrey were level as Victor Ramos rose highest from a corner and steered an accurate header into the bottom corner. Marlon de Jesús then doubled Monterrey’s tally in the 62nd minute when he overcame a poor first touch and drilled the ball to the left of Hernández, the keeper’s touch not being enough to prevent the goal.
Querétaro unsuccessfully pushed for an equaliser before Monterrey wrapped up the win and a valuable three points just five minutes from time, as César Delgado reacted quickest to a loose ball and gleefully prodded home from two yards out.
For Querétaro there may have been an element of complacency in the second half, and if they want to be seriously considered as contenders they cannot afford to make a habit of dropping points from a winning position.
ATLANTE WIN GIVES FANS BELIEF
Atlante had a terrible Apertura campaign and most observers believed them to be doomed to relegation this summer, a potentially disastrous fate for the side that won the championship as recently as 2007.
However, an unlikely win on the final day of the Apertura to deny Chiapas a playoff berth, an impressive opening day draw at home to León, and a highly unfortunate 93rd minute defeat last time out against Veracruz had given the fans cause to think that there may yet be some life left in the historic Azulgranas.
Despite the recent positivity Atlante still went into this weekend’s away fixture against fellow strugglers Atlas knowing that three points was vital if they were to achieve the seemingly impossible and save their top flight status.
The game was played out rather nervously by both sides, but in the 63rd minute it was Narciso Mina, the new signing from America, who made himself an instant terrace hero by receiving the ball on the edge of the area, turning, and coolly sliding the ball past Federico Vilar in the Atlas goal for the winner.
BEST OF THE REST
Tigres UANL continue to struggle as they lost 2-0 away at Morelia on Friday night. Worryingly, it’s now 270 minutes without a goal in the Clausura for Ricardo Ferretti’s squad, and despite a somewhat lucky victory against Atletico San Luis in the midweek Copa MX game, the pressure is rising on the manager and the players. Cruz Azul won 1-0 away at Chiapas to record back to back victories and leave themselves in 2nd position in the table, and Santos are still winless after a 0-0 draw at home to Puebla.
Here’s a look at the entire list of matches from Clausura Round 3 in Liga MX:
Morelia 2, Tigres UANL 0
Santos Laguna 0, Puebla 0
Club America 1, Club Leon 0
Veracruz 1, Chivas de Guadalajara 1
Monterrey 3, Queretaro 1
Pachuca 2, Club Tijuana 1
Chiapas 0, Cruz Azul 1
Atlas 0, Atlante 1
Pumas UNAM 0, Toluca 2