Copa MX: Necaxa tops Pumas; Monterrey coasts to victory

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - AUGUST 07: Claudio Riaño (C) of Necaxa celebrates after the first goal of his team during the match between Pumas UNAM and Necaxa as part of the Copa MX Apertura 2018 at Olimpico Universitario Stadium on August 7, 2018 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Mauricio Salas/Jam Media/Getty Images)
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - AUGUST 07: Claudio Riaño (C) of Necaxa celebrates after the first goal of his team during the match between Pumas UNAM and Necaxa as part of the Copa MX Apertura 2018 at Olimpico Universitario Stadium on August 7, 2018 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Mauricio Salas/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

Necaxa gained a small measure of revenge over the Pumas with a convincing road win in Tuesday night Copa MX action while Monterrey coasted to victory in Mérida but may have lost a key player to a long-term injury.

In other Copa matches, Querétaro won at home, América wrestled Sinaloa to a 0-0 draw and Santos settled for a 1-1 tie vs Celaya.

Necaxa 3, Pumas 1

In a rematch of the league season’s most exciting game so far, the Rayos avenged their 5-3 Week 2 loss at UNAM with a crisp offensive performance. Daniel “El Fideo” Álvarez had a goal and an assist while Martín Barragán put the game away with a “sombrerito” just before the final whistle.

UNAM had Necaxa on its heels in the opening minutes – banging two shots off the post after Matías Alustiza opened the scoring just 10 minutes in. Felipe More cut inside at the edge of the box then dropped a pass to the overlapping Carlos Gutiérrez and his lovely cross found “El Chavo” completely unmarked at the back post. Alustiza easily volleyed home for the 1-0 lead.

The Rayos awoke at the quarter-hour mark but initially only put on a clinic of bad finishing. Barragán hit a post with a header then strike partner Claudio Riaño was caught waiting for a pass in front of net instead of being aggressive. From literally two feet in front of an open net, his tap-in was blocked by a hustling David Cabrera and trickled off the post where it was cleared.

Álvarez wasted a clear scoring chance when he scuffed a centering pass right into the goalie’s hands. The 24-year-old forward made up for his error with a nifty pass that led to the tying goal in minute 34.

Necaxa was dominating possession, as the game was spent primarily in the Rayos’ offensive half. The well-deserved equalizer came when Barragán and Riaño crisscrossed at the top of the half-moon and when the defense followed Barragán to the near side, Álvarez chipped a pass to Riaño who trapped, feinted and slotted home as Pumas goalie Martín Fraga fruitlessly rushed off his line.

Four minutes later, Álvarez put Necaxa in front with right-footed blast from a sharp angle. Pedro Esquivel provided the assist.

The second half was largely played in a downpour, making sustained offensive possession difficult for either side. Rayos goalie Yosgart Gutiérrez preserved the lead in minute 78 by racing off his line and taking Mora’s shot attempt on the chin.

In minute 89, Barragán chased after a long clearance and when a Pumas defender’s headed back pass came up short, he latched on to the ball, chipped it over a helpless Fraga and chased it into the net for a clincher.

Carlos “El Gullit” Peña saw his first action with the Rayos after attending rehab to address his drinking problem. “El Gullit” had been training with Necaxa’s Under-20 team in an effort to regain fitness.

Cup-holders Necaxa lead Group 4 with 6 points, Pumas follow with 3 and Tampico Madero brings up the rear with 0 points.

Venados 0, Monterrey 3

The Rayados eased to victory in the Yucatecan capital against an overmatched Mérida side, but will be more concerned with the injury suffered by Arturo “Poncho” González.

Daniel Parra got Monterrey on the scoreboard in minute 27 with a golazo from 30 meters. The 19-year-old swiped a headed clearance, spun to his left then rifled a shot that crossed in front of the Mérida goalie, bounced off the right post and into the net.

González converted a penalty kick in minute 49 but was forced off the pitch less than half an hour later with what appeared to be a knee injury. “Ponchito” has been a key sub and occasional starter for the Rayados since joining the club two years ago. The injury occurred as “Ponchito” extended for a loose ball and his right-leg seemed to catch; González collapsed to the turf and clutched his knee.

Luis Madrigal completed the scoring for Monterrey sliding home a Dorlan Pabon cross at the far post.

Monterrey has 6 points to top Group 1, followed by Puebla with 3 and the Venados are last with 0 points.

Querétaro 2, Zacatecas 1

The second-division Mineros got off to a dream start on the road, when Iván Pineda got free on the left flank and his cross found Josué Mercado whose diving header snuck inside the far post for a 1-0 lead.

The celebration was short-lived, however, as George Corral blasted home from wide on the right flank. His low drive zipped past a crowd in front of the net and goalie Antonny Monreal hesitated to react, perhaps expecting a deflection.

In minute 70, Corral lifted a long diagonal pass, Jordi Cortizo neatly connected behind the defense in the left side of the box, then passed across the goal mouth for Everaldo Stum to tap home.

Zacatecas, León and Querétaro each have 3 points through 2 games in Group 3.

Sinaloa 0, América 0

The Dorados played a second-choice América squad to a scoreless draw in Culiacán. The game was not a lackluster affair – both teams created scoring chances and pushed forward with possession – but the Águilas were quick to hustle back on defense.

Coach Miguel Herrera preferred to protect most of his starters for Saturday night’s critical league match vs Monterrey.

América and Sinaloa are tied atop Group 7 with 4 points apiece; Veracruz is in third with 0 points.

Santos 1, Celaya 1

The Guerreros went in front in minute 13 when Ayrton Preciado caught goalie Juan Ricardo Roldán out of position and lobbed a shot from 35 meters that bounded into the net.

Santos did not just sit back to protect the lead, pushing forward in waves in hopes of increasing the advantage, but Celaya refused to back down. The Toros found the equalizer in minute 57 when Rodrigo López was given space to dribble into the teeth of the defense before firing a waist-high shot that rippled the net inside the far post to the goalie’s right.

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Santos and Celaya each have 1 point after 2 games in Group 5, trailing Pachuca with 6 points.