Liga MX: Weekend Recap – Week 3

TIJUANA, MEXICO - AUGUST 05: Luis Fuentes of Tijuana celebrates after scoring the first goal of his team during the third round match between Tijuana and Leon as part of the Torneo Apertura 2018 Liga MX at Caliente Stadium on August 5, 2018 in Tijuana, Mexico. (Photo by Eduardo Teran/Jam Media/Getty Images)
TIJUANA, MEXICO - AUGUST 05: Luis Fuentes of Tijuana celebrates after scoring the first goal of his team during the third round match between Tijuana and Leon as part of the Torneo Apertura 2018 Liga MX at Caliente Stadium on August 5, 2018 in Tijuana, Mexico. (Photo by Eduardo Teran/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

Cruz Azul, Monterrey win third straight; Toluca, Chivas battle to draw in Week 3 Liga MX action

Cruz Azul and Monterrey kept pace with the Pumas atop the Liga MX standings with wins on Saturday while Toluca and Guadalajara highlighted Sunday’s Week 3 slate with a testy 2-2 draw that featured a melee in the game’s final minutes.

Also Sunday, León earned its first point of the season with a 1-1 tie at Tijuana and Santos spanked visiting Puebla 2-0. On Saturday night, visiting América dominated Pachuca 3-1 and 10-man Necaxa stunned Lobos BUAP with an injury-time winner.

Toluca 2, Chivas 2

Ángel Zaldívar scored twice for Guadalajara but was denied the game-winner in minute 91 when substitute goalie José García came up with the save of his life. The Chivas striker was all alone in front of goal when he collected Isaac Brizuela’s pass from the right wing only to see his left-footed effort smothered by the lunging García, saving a point for the home team.

One minute later, a nasty-looking fracas broke out after Chivas midfielder Orbelín Pineda objected to being pulled to the turf as he sought to generate a counterattack against the exhausted Toluca defense. Ref César Ramos showed Enrique Triverio a yellow for his foul on Pineda who was immediately thereafter ejected for slapping Toluca skipper Rubens Sambueza in the face during the ensuing skirmish. It took nearly 3 minutes to restore order and league officials might look at the tape this week to make sure no other punches were thrown.

The riotous ending of the match obscured what had been a magnificent game, featuring end-to-end rushes, wonderful saves and brilliant individual plays throughout.

Alexis Vega opened the scoring for Toluca in minute 4 after being sprung behind the Chivas defense with a nifty through pass from Sambueza. Alan Pulido nearly scored for Guadalajara a half hour later only to be denied by defender Rodrigo Salinas who was trailing the play on the back side.

In minute 43, Walter Gael Sandoval split through two Diablos Rojos defenders to get inside the box and curled a shot over Toluca keeper Alfredo Talavera only to see it ricochet off the far post. Fortunately, it fell to Saldívar’s feet and the 24-year-old slotted home the equalizer.

Five minutes into the second half, Toluca pushed forward and held possession inside the penalty box but was unable to get off a shot. Five passes later, Brizuela was behind the Toluca defense and his low cross was met at the near post by a diving Saldívar whose header bounded inside the far post for a 2-1 Chivas lead.

Before the hour mark, each team had squandered two additional scoring chances, including Saldívar’s first opportunity at a hat trick. (He missed two others.)

In minute 61, Toluca stormed forward on a counterattack and Salinas got to the touchline, tiptoed around a Chivas defender but goalie Raúl Gudiño blocked the shot with his midsection as he slid on his knees to cover the near post.

The Diablos Rojos continued to maintain pressure in its offensive third and in minute 69 – after a poor Chivas clearance – Toluca defender Fernando Tobio charged forward, dropped off a pass to the wing and Cristian Borja rifled a low cross across the goal mouth that zipped past five Guadalajara defenders to the feet of Luis Mendoza unmarked on the back side. He powered a right-footer back toward the net and the score was knotted at 2-2.

Toluca goalie Talavera was then shown the red card for mouthing off in minute 77 (a decision that might cost ref Ramos an assignment next week), setting the stage for sub García’s heroics and the donnybrook just before the final whistle.

Guadalajara ended its 6-game league losing streak dating back to last season, but that’s little to no consolation as the Chivas are mired in 14th place with just 1 point after three matches.

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Cruz Azul 1, Tigres 0

The host Cementeros earned their third win in three games when winger Elías Hernández swiped a sloppy pass by Tigres defender Jorge Torres Nilo, pushed forward, turned a defender then rewarded Roberto Alvarado’s overlapping run with a perfectly weighted pass into the box. Alvarado blasted a left-footed shot over Tigres goalie Nahuel Guzmán for the winner in minute 68.

The four-star match-up had lost some of its luster when star Tigres striker André-Pierre Gignac did not make the trip to Mexico City due to illness. Still, the visitors from Monterrey dominated possession (70%) though Tuca Ferretti’s boys failed to get a shot on goal.

Cruz Azul was content to absorb pressure with numbers behind the ball and push forward on the counterattack. This strategy was partly necessary because the Cementeros were hampered by injuries to two of their top strikers – Andrés Rentería and Milton Caraglio, neither of whom were suited up.

Cruz Azul remains in second place behind the Pumas, both on 9 points, and the Cementeros are the only team yet to cede a goal this season. The Tigres slipped from 3rd to 5th.

Monterrey 2, Querétaro 1

The host Rayados needed all 90 minutes to overcome the pesky Gallos Blancos with Avilés Hurtado knocking home a cross from Dorlan Pabon at the back post to claim the victory.

Querétaro striker Edson Puch opened the scoring in minute 23 when he converted a penalty kick but Nico Sánchez equalized six minutes later by heading home from long-range off a free kick.

Sánchez then muffed a penalty in minute 41 when his spot kick clanked off the woodwork.

The game was a free-flowing affair in which the Gallos Blancos enjoyed the better of possession (54%) but only managed one more shot on goal. Monterrey fired 17 shots with 8 on target. Querétaro goalie Tiago Volpi stopped four shots and his defenders blocked two more, but Hurtado’s late run into the box earned 3 points for the Rayados who now are a perfect three wins in three games.

Pachuca 1, América 3

Visiting América routed winless Pachuca with an efficient offensive display, unveiling a new starlet in the process.

Teenager Diego Lainez scored twice for the Águilas – his first two career goals – and striker Oribe Peralta got on the scoresheet for the first time since March 3. Peralta also assisted Lainez’s second goal.

Lainez earned his debut two years ago and has since been seen as a rising star. The Tabasco native joined training camp late this summer as he was on duty with the Under-21 national team squad at the Panamerican Games in Colombia. Coach Miguel Herrera will be hard-pressed to keep the shifty winger off the field after his performance Saturday night.

Lainez opened the scoring in minute 16, scurrying down the right wing, cutting inside and firing an angled shot that took a slight deflection before banging in off the far post. He netted again in minute 61, taking a long square pass from Peralta near the top of the box, pausing, then shooting high inside the near post where Pachuca goalie Alfonso Blanco had no chance for a save.

Peralta finished the scoring in minute 80 (10 minutes after squandering a chance from point-blank range), alertly volleying home a rebound from a corner kick.

Necaxa 1, Lobos BUAP 0

The Rayos overcame a 39th-minute red card, holding off the visitors from Puebla by maintaining possession and slowing the pace of the game. Just when it appeared the result would be a scoreless draw, Dieter Villalpando decided to start his birthday celebration.

Necaxa striker Víctor Dávila was fouled at midfield in minute 91 and quickly took the free quick when he saw Villalpando rushing forward down the right flank. The birthday boy raced on to the ball, dribbled into the box, faked a shot causing the goalie to take another step to his near post, then powered a drive under the overpursuing defender’s leg and into the net at the far post.

Santos 2, Puebla 0

Julio Furch recorded a goal and an assist to lead the host Guerreros to a comfortable win.

The big Argentine striker opened the scoring in minute 34 by pouncing on a rebound after Puebla goalie Nicolás Vikonis had parried his header off the line. Furch’s left-footer deflected off the prone Vikonis’ leg and bounced into the net off the far post.

In minute 51, Furch released Carlos Orrantia into the box all alone with a perfect diagonal lead pass and the winger fired home for the insurance goal.

Tijuana 1, León 1

The Xolos went down to 10 men in minute 39 when Luis Chávez was shown two yellow cards in quick succession. The home team fought hard after falling behind early in the second half and will feel satisfied with the tie.

The game was well-played with both teams employing quick-passing vertical attacks with plenty of movement. There were a combined 34 shots – 12 on goal – and over 700 passes during the 90 minutes of action.

Esmeraldas goalie Rodolfo Cota stopped a Miller Bolaños penalty kick in minute 15 to deny Tijuana an early lead. The penalty decision was a bit dubious, but the former Chivas keeper made the argument moot with a fine save.

Walter González put the visitors up in minute 53 after a sequence that featured three crossing passes. González rose at the back post to head home a cross from defender William Tesillo.

Despite being a man down, the Xolos went on attack after inserting Erick Castillo three minutes later. The speedy Peruvian forward wreaked havoc on the León defense as both teams raced up and down the pitch for the game’s final 35 minutes.

In minute 74, Bolaños made up for his penalty failure with a slick drop pass to the charging Luis Fuentes at the top of the box. The onrushing fullback blasted a left-footer that deflected off the legs of León defender Andrés Mosquera, wrong-footing Cota and rolling into the net to make the score 1-1.

The remainder of the game featured numerous opportunities and scrambling saves on the part of both goalies. León climbed out of the basement, earning its first point of the season while Tijuana sits in 10th place with 4 points.