Liga MX: After watery weekend, Copa MX kicks back into gear

GUADALAJARA, MEXICO - AUGUST 29: Fans of Atlas cheer during a Group F match between Atlas and Cruz Azul as part of Torneo Apertura Copa MX 2018 at Estadio Jalisco on August 29, 2018 in Guadalajara, Mexico. (Photo by Refugio Ruiz/Getty Images)
GUADALAJARA, MEXICO - AUGUST 29: Fans of Atlas cheer during a Group F match between Atlas and Cruz Azul as part of Torneo Apertura Copa MX 2018 at Estadio Jalisco on August 29, 2018 in Guadalajara, Mexico. (Photo by Refugio Ruiz/Getty Images) /

Heading toward the final third of the Liga MX season, the top of the table features most of the favorites while midseason charges by Pachuca and León have sputtered out. Tijuana is knocking on the postseason door while the Monterrey powerhouses – Rayados and Tigres – seem to be biding their time until the playoffs approach.

Matchday 11 offers three critical clashes and closes with a bang – the SuperClásico at Estadio Azteca in which the Chivas desperately need points to stay in the hunt. But first on the docket are eight Copa MX tilts featuring two particularly attractive first division battles and a close-up look at Diego Maradona and his Sinaloa Dorados who will visit Querétaro on Wednesday.

Waterlogged weekend

Heavy rains wreaked havoc in several venues during Matchday 10 with the UNAM at Morelia match called in minute 81. Both teams splashed around Estadio Morelos fruitlessly and the league ruled the scoreless draw official after an electrical storm forced the teams into the locker rooms. The result hurt the Monarcas more than the Pumas as it cost Morelia 2 points at home and they have now fallen from 4th place into 11th place after a surprisingly strong start to the season.

In León, officials suspended the match in the 71 st minute as puddles made playing soccer impossible. After a 20-minute delay and some yeoman work from the grounds crew the game resumed, and León continued to sink. With 2 minutes remaining, Lobos striker Leo Ramos knocked in a loose ball from a sitting position right in front of the goal mouth after a loose ball squirted free. The loss was León’s third straight and virtually kills the team’s playoff chances.

League-leading Cruz Azul squeezed past punchless Atlas (1 goal in 10 matches), getting two goals before the hour mark while goalie Jesús Corona made six saves, several of the outstanding variety. The final 30 minutes of the match were played in a downpour but by then it appeared that the game could have lasted another 2 hours and Atlas would have been unable to score.

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Elsewhere, América stole victory from Puebla in injury time after Edson Álvarez earned a second yellow card after a silly foul. The Águilas got the winner on a free kick from well outside the box thanks to Puebla’s slack marking. Goalie Nicolás Vikonis made a nice save but his defense failed to react and Bruno Valdéz swooped in to punch home the rebound at the doorstep.

The Chivas saw victory slip away when Marco Antonio Ortiz awarded a questionable penalty to Querétaro in injury time but that only evened out things because the Chivas had taken the lead in minute 84 on an equally dubious penalty. Earlier in the match, the host Chivas had a legitimate goal disallowed when the line judge inaccurately made an offside call.

The loss of points at home makes Sunday’s SuperClásico in Mexico City a virtual must-win for Guadalajara. The Chivas are hopeful that midfielder Orbelín Pineda will be back in the line-up but a return for defensive midfielder Michael Pérez seems more of a stretch.

Overshadowed by violence off the pitch, the Clásico Regio ended in a disappointing 0-0 result as injury-riddled Rayados played for the scoreless draw from the outset. Both powerhouse Monterrey clubs face key matches this coming weekend while hanging onto low playoff seeds. The No. 7 Tigres visit No. 8 Querétaro while the No. 6 Rayados host surging Tijuana, winner of its third-straight 1-0 game.

Copa MX

Sixteen teams remain in the hunt for the Apertura 2018 Cup trophy in the win-or-go-home knockout stage. Four games kick off Tuesday night and the remaining four are scheduled for Wednesday night. Four second division clubs remain topped by the Dorados of Sinaloa and their new coach Diego Maradona.

Four matches pit Liga MX squads against each other with Wednesday night’s pairing of 13th-seed UNAM at 4th-seeded Chivas being the most attractive.

On Tuesday, defending champ Necaxa (No. 5 seed) hosts slumping León (No. 12) at the same time that Pachuca battles visiting Tapachula. Later, América hosts second-divisoin Juárez but the marquee match of the night sees Cruz Azul on the road in Tijuana. The Cementeros lead the league standings but they only earned the No. 9 seed after an inconsistent performance during the group stage. Tijuana – No. 8 – is coming off three straight shut-outs and will have no fear of taking on heavily favored Cruz Azul.

Wednesday’s games start with the intriguing Puebla at Tigres match but most of the attention will be on the game in Querétaro where Diego Maradona will be on the sideline. Maradona will be coaching his Dorados of Sinaloa for only the third time (with a 1-0-1 record) and his post-game tantrum after Saturday’s loss at Oaxaca was widely panned.

The nightcap features Zacatepec at Monterrey and the Chivas-Pumas match.