Liga MX: Cruz Azul moves to top of table; Rayados hand Pumas 1st loss

MONTERREY, MEXICO - AUGUST 18: Rodolfo Pizarro of Monterrey kicks the ball during the fifth round match between Monterrey and Pumas UNAM as part of the Torneo Apertura 2018 Liga MX at BBVA Bancomer Stadium on August 4, 2018 in Monterrey, Mexico. (Photo by Azael Rodriguez/Getty Images)
MONTERREY, MEXICO - AUGUST 18: Rodolfo Pizarro of Monterrey kicks the ball during the fifth round match between Monterrey and Pumas UNAM as part of the Torneo Apertura 2018 Liga MX at BBVA Bancomer Stadium on August 4, 2018 in Monterrey, Mexico. (Photo by Azael Rodriguez/Getty Images) /

Undefeated Cruz Azul moved into sole possession of first place with an impressive 3-0 home victory over León, while Monterrey jumped into second place with a 1-0 win over previously unbeaten UNAM.

Elsewhere, the Águilas juggernaut was kept under wraps as Querétaro held América to 1 goal in a 1-1 draw and Necaxa scrambled back from a 2-0 deficit to tie 10-man Puebla 2-2.

Cruz Azul 3, León 0

Elías Hernández scored twice and Roberto Alvarado provided two assists as Cruz Azul manhandled León in a game in which both teams ended with 10 men.

During the opening 15 minutes, the visiting Esmeraldas threatened repeatedly sending deep balls down the flanks behind the Cruz Azul fullbacks and whipping crosses into the box. In minute 14, Cementero fullback Gerry Flores got caught forward and lunged for a loose ball, catching Pedro Aquino above the ankle. Ref César Ramos properly pulled out his red card and Cruz Azul appeared to be in big trouble.

In short order, León’s Luis Montés had a shot blocked in close and Yairo Moreno was denied by Cruz Azul keeper Jesús Corona, a huge save that prevented León from sustaining momentum. Corona slid across his goal from left to right as a corner kick was deflected to the back post where Moreno was all alone, but the Colombian was slow pulling the trigger and his low shot ricocheted off Corona’s right leg and flew out-of-bounds.

Just five minutes later, in minute 32, Alvarado slid a perfectly weighted pass between two León defenders, Hernández collected and fired in one motion but his shot was blocked by the onrushing goalie, Rodolfo Cota. Unfortunately for Cota the deflection bounded up in the air and Elías was first to react, heading over the prone keeper and into the net.

More from Viva Liga MX

Another five minutes more and León was down to 10 men after Alexander Mejía was ejected for a retaliatory kick of Iván Marcone after the whistle. Cruz Azul continued its inspired play and Alvarado was again the instigator, sprinting 70 yards and providing the assist for a 2-0 lead.

The Esmeraldas took a corner kick in minute 41, Marcone cleared out of the box at the back side and Alvarado beat Montes to the ball and chipped it over him then raced down the right sideline, touched the ball forward stumbling as he beat a sliding tackle from Andrés Mosquera then angled in toward the box with a 2-on-1, Hernández waiting on the far side of the lone defender, Juan Cornejo. Alvarado zipped a square pass across the top of the box that hopped over the foot of Pedro Aquino who had raced back into the play. Hernández trapped, turned and right-footed a shot into the back of the net.

Hernández nearly scored again in minute 48 but after that the game bogged down for a half hour before Cruz Azul generated a few more dangerous chances, the last coming in minute 89.

Milton Caraglio stole the ball in León’s defensive half then led Alvarado into the box on the left side, but the 19-year-old was unable to chip his cross over Cota who had closed down the angle. Alvarado calmly collected the loose ball near the touch-line, dribbled away from Cota then turned and lofted a 30-yard pass to the back post where Caraglio headed home for the 3-0 clincher.

Cruz Azul is the only unbeaten team in all competitions (league and Cup), and its 4-1-0 league record has the Cementeros on top with 13 points through 5 games.

Monterrey 1, UNAM 0

The Rayados knocked the Pumas from the ranks of the undefeated with an early goal and steady pressure throughout the remainder of the match. UNAM expended a lot of energy chasing Dorlan Pabón and Avilés Hurtado, while Jonathan González pestered Puma players who sought to cross midfield with possession.

In minute 4, Nico Sánchez put Monterrey up with a powerful header at the back post off a corner. The play originated with a bad foul by Luis Antonio Quintana that earned him a yellow card. Pabón blasted the ensuing free kick from 25 meters that short-hopped UNAM goalie Alfredo Saldívar who scooped away for a corner. Pabón then served up the corner to Sánchez.

Soon thereafter, Saldívar made a nice save on a bicycle kick by Sánchez in close.

In UNAM’s only true first-half chance, Pumas forward Carlos González mis-hit a volley right at the doorstep that could have equalized in minute 15.

Midway through the first half, Monterrey hit the crossbar twice in quick succession and just before the whistle, Rodolfo Pizarro was denied by Saldívar from point-blank range.

Through the first 45 minutes, Monterrey had gotten off 9 shots, 4 on goal, while the Pumas managed only 3 shots, none on goal.

For the remainder of the game, the Rayados sat back and chased forward on the counterattack but rarely threatened, affording UNAM plenty of opportunity to claw back and equalize. In minute 79, Felipe Mora ripped a 22-meter shot that rattled the crossbar but the Pumas only got the ball on net once and Monterrey escaped with the 3 points.

The Rayados slipped past the Pumas into second place with 12 points while UNAM fell from first to fourth with 10 points.

Querétaro 1, América 1

The Gallos Blancos held the powerful Águilas to 1 goal and earned a valuable point, on occasion out-playing América.

Querétaro claimed 62% possession during the match and outshot América 13-10 though neither team was terribly accurate.

Gallos Blancos goalie Tiago Volpi was called on to make a nice save 20 minutes in, but América keeper Agustín Marchesín was nearly caught out a few minutes later. The Argentine glove man was cheating forward on a corner kick and Querétaro’s Camilo Sanvezzo curled a low hard shot that was ticketed for the back of the net until Marchesín scrambled back and made a lunging kick save to prevent an embarrassing goal.

In minute 36, Oribe Peralta put the visitors up 1-0 with a diving header to meet a lovely cross from América fullback Jorge Sánchez.

América was effective pushing forward in numbers on the counter, but Querétaro always managed to get back and the help defense was tremendous in front of Volpi. The Gallos Blancos found wide-open spaces in midfield where Guido Rodríguez and Matheus Uribe were unable to cut off Querétaro attacks.

In minute 74, Sanvezzo escaped his marker at the back post and headed home a centering pass from Daniel Villalva to equalize. The culprit was Sánchez as the youngster (he’s 20) seemed to be caught napping and allowed his man to cut in front of him to meet the cross.

América remains in third place with 10 points from 5 games, but Santos could leapfrog the Águilas with a victory on Sunday afternoon.

Necaxa 2, Puebla 2

The Rayos scrambled back from an early second-half 0-2 deficit but will feel short-changed since they were playing with a man advantage for the game’s final 55 minutes.

The visiting Camoteros jumped out in front in minute 6 when each of three Necaxa defenders were a step late in chasing down a Puebla attack. Lucas Cavallini was the beneficiary.

Eight minutes later, Brian Fernández saw his penalty kick stopped by Puebla keeper Nicolás Vikonis who would turn out to be the star of the game, making 6 saves, several of which were spectacular.

Puebla midfielder José Francisco Torres was red-carded in minute 35 but Necaxa could not make headway before halftime. Then, less than a minute after the restart, Puebla was ahead by 2 goals.

Deep in its own defensive half, Necaxa’s Fernando González attempted a clearance that was deflected out-of-bounds, but ref Fernando Hernández incorrectly ruled a Puebla throw-in. The resulting possession was controlled by the visitors, Cavallini found Alejandro Chumacero inside the left top corner of the box. Chumacero popped up the pass with his left knee then right-footed a volley over the head of goalie Hugo González and Necaxa was suddenly down 0-2.

That seemed to wake up the Rayos and they raged forward. Facundo Castro hit the crossbar on a free kick a minute later, but Vikonis covered up the shot off the rebound by Marcelo Allende.

In minute 58, Víctor Dávila converted a penalty kick; a goal by Necaxa’s Martín Barragán was ruled out for offside; Vikonis made a brilliant kick save off a Carlos “Gullit” Peña shot two minutes later; Dieter Villalpando blasted home from 22 meters off a scramble following a corner kick and the game was knotted 2-2 in minute 69.

Despite surging forward the rest of the game (and 69% possession over the entire match), the Rayos could not find the game-winner.

light. Must Read. An Idea for the future of Liga MX

Pachuca 3, Lobos BUAP 0

The Tuzos exploded in the second half, scoring twice in the first 12 minutes after the break, then coasting to their first win of the season.

Angelo Sagal scored in minute 49, knocking home a perfect cross from Víctor Guzmán right in front of goal. Eight minutes later, Guzmán poked home a loose ball at the left post after Lobos goalie Antonio Rodríguez had dived to his right to block a screaming header from in close by Antonio Peña.

Erick Gutiérrez closed out the book in minute 82, left-footing a shot over Rodríguez from the center of the box, one-timing a pass from Erick Aguirre.

The goals were Pachuca’s first from open play all season (the only goal to that point had been a penalty kick by Franco Jara in Week 3. In all, the Tuzos fired 27 shots, 12 on goal, while the Lobos only managed 8 shots in all (2 on goal).

Pachuca moved out of the cellar all the way to 13th place.