Liga MX: Ten-man Cruz Azul battles to draw; Chivas continue to sink

TIJUANA, MEXICO - AUGUST 12: Gerardo Flores of Cruz Azul celebrates after the first goal of his team during the fourth round match between Tijuana and Cruz Azul as part of the Torneo Apertura 2018 Liga MX at Caliente Stadium on August 12, 2018 in Tijuana, Mexico. (Photo by Gonzalo Gonzalez/Jam Media/Getty Images)
TIJUANA, MEXICO - AUGUST 12: Gerardo Flores of Cruz Azul celebrates after the first goal of his team during the fourth round match between Tijuana and Cruz Azul as part of the Torneo Apertura 2018 Liga MX at Caliente Stadium on August 12, 2018 in Tijuana, Mexico. (Photo by Gonzalo Gonzalez/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

Cruz Azul scored in injury time to preserve its unbeaten start to the Liga MX season, even on points with the first-place Pumas who earlier moved to 3-1-0 with a listless 0-0 tie vs. last-place Pachuca.

Elsewhere, the Chivas continued their nightmare start, losing at home to Santos after taking an early lead.

Tijuana 1, Cruz Azul 1

The Cementeros survived nearly 70 minutes with 10 men, holding their own against the fast-paced Xolos attack until Miller Bolaños appeared to knock home the game-winner in minute 79.

The Ecuadorian forward rose above his marker off a free kick and powered a header low toward the far post. Cruz Azul goalie Jesús Corona nearly made a full-stretch save, even sprinting the length of the field after the side judge to dispute the ruling that it crossed the line. (Replays seemed to indicate it was a legitimate goal … but just barely). It was the first goal allowed by the Cementeros this season.

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Corona had already made three flashy saves, including a stop on Jesús Angulo only seconds after the opening kickoff. The 37-year-old keeper made a nifty reflex save before the quarter-hour mark as the game flowed from end-to-end.

In minute 22, Cementero defender Pablo Aguilar was harshly shown a second yellow card after roughly shielding Angulo from a loose ball. A case could be made that it wasn’t even a foul, and it certainly didn’t appear to be worthy of a yellow card, but Cruz Azul found itself a man down on the road.

Coach Pedro Caixinha made a substitution, replacing striker Martín Cauteruccio with central defender Igor Lichnovsky then tweaking his tactical alignment before halftime by stationing holding midfielder Iván Marcone in a deeper position. This offered fullbacks Adrián Aldrete and Gerry Flores freedom to press forward down the flanks instead of remaining pinned down with extra defensive responsibilities.

Cruz Azul shut off passing lanes and continued to look for breakouts with Elías Hernández, Roberto Alvarado and Édgar Méndez sprinting at the Xolos defense then returning to provide cover for the backliners.

The Cementeros back line also executed the offside trap brilliantly, several times forcing a straying Tijuana forward into offside positions. Cruz Azul could even make the claim it deserved to win, twice hitting the post and outshooting the Xolos 16-14 for the game.

With the clock ticking toward the final whistle, Aldrete lofted a free kick to the back post where Flores outmuscled Rubio Rubín to get his head on the ball, looping it over Xolos keeper Manuel Lajud and inside the far post.

Tijuana coach Diego Cocca will be disappointed his team has now settled for two consecutive ties at home and the Xolos remain in 10th place after four weeks. Cruz Azul is tied with the Pumas at the top of the league with 10 points, behind on goal differential.

Pumas 0, Pachuca 0

The high-powered UNAM offense stalled out on the waterlogged Ciudad Universitario pitch, while the moribund Pachuca attack actually showed some signs of life. Even so, the Tuzos still have not scored a goal from open play yet they should be grateful to go home with a point.

The Pumas looked out of sorts after starting the year with three wins in three games while scoring 10 goals. On Sunday, their passing was erratic and they seemed a bit too content to sit back and allow Pachuca to set the pace of play.

UNAM will have to rediscover their spark with a date at wounded Monterrey next weekend. Pachuca will host Lobos BUAP in a must-win game.

Chivas 1, Santos 2

Isaac Brizuela went from hero to goat for Guadalajara, scoring in the first half before turning the ball over with a poor pass that was swiftly converted into the winning goal for Santos in minute 78.

The two teams traded errant passes at a frantic pace for the game’s first 20 minutes with Santos goalie Jonathan Orozco called on to make several key saves. Chivas striker Ángel Saldívar – fresh off a two-goal game last week at Toluca – found space in front of goal twice but was denied by Orozco on each occasion.

In minute 29, Javier López worked himself free down the right flank and sent in a low cross that trickled across to Brizuela at the back post but his shot was blocked by Orozco. Brizuela quickly pounced on the rebound and roofed his second effort to give the Chivas a 1-0 lead.

Santos evened the score in minute 40 off a free kick when defender Matheus Doria reached his left leg around his marker Carlos Salcido and deflected the ball into the net at the back post.

Throughout the second half, the Chivas continued to fire away at Orozco though rarely forcing any tough saves. Saldívar was profligate in front of net, missing two more scoring chances and appearing indecisive on a couple of possessions.

In minute 78, Brizuela hustled back to make a steal at midfield, turned quickly into attack, then angled left to the center of the pitch as the play broke down. He then tried a square pass to the left flank but it lacked pace. José Juan Vázquez intercepted and zipped a 60-yard pass straight up the right channel that Julio Furch chased down with two Chivas defenders in hot pursuit. The tall Argentine gathered the pass and pumped a low, hard cross past the two defenders where fellow striker Jonathan Rodríguez slid into the path of the ball right in front of the back post, poking the ball into the net for the victory.

Salvador Reyes earned a win in his first game as Santos coach, taking over after Robert Siboldi resigned in a stunning turn of events only three months after he guided the Guerreros to their sixth league title.

The Chivas have not defeated Santos at home since 2012 as the visitors from Coahuila have gone 7-1-0 in their past eight visits to Estadio Akron. Santos moved into fourth place with 9 points while the Chivas languish in last place only ahead of Pachuca on goal differential.