Liga MX: Nine-man América stuns Pumas with injury-time equalizer

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - AUGUST 25: Henry Martin of America celebrates after scoring the second goal during the 7th round match between America and Pumas UNAM as part of the Torneo Apertura 2018 Liga MX at Azteca Stadium on August 25, 2018 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Jam Media/Getty Images)
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - AUGUST 25: Henry Martin of America celebrates after scoring the second goal during the 7th round match between America and Pumas UNAM as part of the Torneo Apertura 2018 Liga MX at Azteca Stadium on August 25, 2018 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Jam Media/Getty Images) /

América fought back from two red cards to steal a tie from cross-town rival UNAM with an injury-time goal, continuing the Pumas slump after their brilliant start to the season (they won their first 3 games).

Elsewhere, Monterrey gave up a late goal to squander a 2-0 lead at home to the Monarcas while the Tigres were gifted a penalty kick in minute 91 to steal a draw against Necaxa.

América 2, Pumas 2

I don’t know what was more painful: Alejandro Arribas’ broken elbow or watching UNAM fritter away a victory with a two-man advantage. América battled to a draw in the Clásico Capitalino with an injury time goal despite playing with nine men for the game’s final 22 minutes. Pumas fans must feel miserable today.

Henry Martín rose up unmarked in front of goal to head home a long centering pass in minute 92 even though the penalty area was flooded with UNAM defenders.

How did that happen, you ask? Perhaps Pumas defenders did not recognize him since he came on as a sub 15 minutes earlier. But wait … he was wearing different colors, so it couldn’t be that …

I do not recall ever seeing a team play so carelessly with a two-man advantage. It was incredible. UNAM insisted on dribbling into trouble, allowing the ball to be trapped on the sideline, ceding possession by punting the ball out of their defensive zone. It was a master class in panic and wastefulness.

América striker Roger Martínez was ejected for throwing an elbow in minute 39 with the score tied at 1. For more than half an hour, the Aguilas pressed and chased, keeping the Pumas off-balance and tentative, unable to break down the scrambling América defense.

In minute 68, defender Bruno Váldez spiked Pumas captain Pablo Barrera in the shin pads and was shown red. Surely, UNAM would capitalize now … and five minutes later Carlos González found space at the back post to nod home a long cross from Martín Rodríguez to give the Pumas a 2-1 lead.

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Now all UNAM needed to do was play keep away, maintain spacing and run out the clock. Or circulate the ball and tire out the Águilas to find the clincher. That did not happen.

The Pumas continually dribbled into double teams, got caught on the sideline with no one to pass to, while teammates stood and watched, neglecting to move into space to create passing lanes. An equalizer truly seemed inevitable. It was an incredible to see … like watching a car crash in slow motion.

Pumas coach David Patiño will now forever have video footage to show his team what NOT to do when trying to protect a lead. His team is now winless in four games since a 3-0-0 start and remains in sixth place.

América coach Miguel Herrera will be thrilled with the point earned and his team’s hustle and drive will erase important questions about Herrera’s tactical errors throughout the match. The Águilas started a 5-man back line with 3 central defenders and Luis Reyes and Paul Aguilar running the flanks.

Guido Rodríguez was basically left alone with defensive responsibilities in midfield with Cecilio Domínguez and Andrés Ibarguen focused on joining Oribe Peralta and Roger Martínez in attack. UNAM exploited the line-up right off the bat as Martín Rodríguez zig-zagged through from left to right along the left sideline then chipped a cross into the box where Felipe Mora found space between two defenders and headed home inside the far post. The game was 17 seconds old and UNAM was leading 1-0.

Oribe Peralta knotted the score in minute 32 with a wonderful solo effort, angling in from the right, shielding off Luis Fernando Quintana then left-footing a skimmer that wrong-footed UNAM goalie Alfredo Saldívar.

Herrera left Diego Lainez and Renato Ibarra on the bench. Both have been offensive sparkplugs the past month. The formation also forced Matheus Uribe to the sideline (he entered in minute 65) and his presence in midfield was missed for the first hour. With the miraculous tie, “El Piojo” will mostly be able to dismiss the criticism over tactics and prepare his team – holding firm in fifth place – for next week’s date in Puebla against lowly Lobos BUAP.

Monterrey 2, Morelia 2

The Monarcas battled back from a 2-0 deficit to equalize in minute 87, stunning the Monterrey faithful jammed into Estadio BBVA Bancomer hoping to watch their beloved Rayados fulfill their potential. It was not to be.

Defender Stefan Medina put the hosts ahead in minute 7 when he banged home a rebound off a Dorlan Pabón free kick. Luis Guillermo Madrigal doubled the lead with a powerful header off a Pabón corner kick and Rayados fans were delirious.

If there is one thing that has defined Morelia through 7 weeks it is their tactical discipline. And it showed Saturday night as the Monarcas stuck to their game plan, maintained the integrity of their lines and sprung the occasional trap.

It paid off just three minutes after Madrigal’s goal when Irven Ávila deflected a lazy pass from Jonathan González as Monterrey was clearing its zone. The ball rolled into the path of Rodrigo Millar who was pressing forward and he blasted a left footer past Marcelo Barovero to silence the crowd.

Morelia continued to play patiently, looking for space between the Monterrey lines, while isolating Pabón and Avilés Hurtado when they took off on solo runs forward. Hurtado, in particular, too often raced into trouble and lost the ball as the Rayados sought to get forward and this contributed to Morelia’s 62% possession advantage.

Morelia’s ball-control wore out the Monterrey defense and in minute 87 it paid off as Carlos Ferreira outraced José María Basanta to a perfectly weighted cross from Salvador Reyes and his point-blank header was knocked down by Barovero but Ferreira recovered and flicked home from left of the post to earn the 2-2 tie.

Monterrey remains in second place but continues to underperform while the surprising Monarcas sit in fourth place.

Necaxa 1, Tigres 1

For the second game in a row, the Rayos lost points thanks to a questionable penalty call. This time, the Tigres were able to convert the tying goal in minute 92 after Leobardo López was tackled in the box on a free kick but the ref whistled the Necaxa defender for the foul. (López was also victimized by a bad call against the Chivas that led to the winning goal in a 1-0 loss on Wednesday.)

With the Rayos nursing a 1-0 lead in injury time, Tigres defender Hugo Ayala grabbed López and took him to the ground as Lucas Zelarayán lifted a free kick into the box. Erick Yair Miranda blew his whistle and pointed to the spot, leaving Necaxa to lament the fact that video replay will not be instituted in Liga MX until October. Edu Vargas converted the penalty to give the Tigres the undeserved tie.

In minute 85, Víctor Dávila stole a bad back pass by Jesús Dueñas and fired home from 25 meters and the Rayos seemed to have pulled off the upset despite enjoying only 37% possession. Still, Necaxa got off more shots on goal than the Tigres (5 to 4).

Atlas 0, Chivas 1

The Zorros again failed to find the net (0 goals through the first 7 games of the season) and Orbelín Peralta blasted home the winner in minute 64 to give the Chivas their third win in eight days after starting the season 0-1-2.

Atlas had the better of the Friday night match on the water-logged Estadio Jalisco pitch through the first 30 minutes but misfired again and again allowing the Chivas to walk away with the win in the Clásico Tapatío.

Pachuca 2, Puebla 0

Víctor Guzmán and Erick Gutiérrez scored in the second half as the Tuzos continued their fight back from a miserable start (they opened the season with 3 straight losses but have gone 2-1-0 in the past three weeks).

Hot. Chivas has turned their season around. light

Veracruz 1, Tijuana 0

Tijuana hit bottom in the port city, losing to the Tiburones who made an 8th-minute goal by Diego Chávez stand up. Tijuana has fallen to 16th place after an impressive 2-1 road victory over the Chivas in the season opener.

With the win, Veracruz relieves some of its relegation pressure and continues to battle despite the front-office woes related to a tax-evasion investigation and missing wages for the players.