Liga MX: Bravos stun América in Copa MX upset for the ages

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 25: Edmundo Vazquez of Bravos de Juarez celebrates after stop penalty during a match between America and Juarez as part of Round of eighth of Copa MX Apertura 2018 at Azteca Stadium on September 25, 2018 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Mauricio Salas/Jam Media/Getty Images)
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 25: Edmundo Vazquez of Bravos de Juarez celebrates after stop penalty during a match between America and Juarez as part of Round of eighth of Copa MX Apertura 2018 at Azteca Stadium on September 25, 2018 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Mauricio Salas/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

Second division Juárez shocked América in Estadio Azteca, winning their Copa MX Round of 16 match 9-8 in a penalty kick shootout after scoring a late equalizer against the top-seeded Águilas. The Bravos only came into existence a little over three years ago and have competed in the Ascenso MX since then. The stunning upset spoiled a potential Mexico City Classic in the quarterfinals after Cruz Azul held on to defeat Tijuana.

Elsewhere, defending champion Necaxa was bounced from the Copa by visiting León while Pachuca cruised past second division Tapachula with an easy 3-0 victory.

América 2, Juárez 2 (8-9 penalty kicks)

The 16th-seeded Bravos from Ciudad Juárez recorded the biggest victory in their young history with an outstanding performance against the heavily favored Águilas. Rodrigo Prieto put the visitors ahead in minute 17 with a well-converted penalty kick, a harbinger of things to come nearly 2 hours later.

The Bravos sat back on defense the remainder of the half and goalie Iván Vázquez kept América off the score sheet with solid play behind his well-positioned defense. However, it took only 30 seconds after the restart for América to equalize as Cecilio Domínguez stole a ball at the side of the penalty box, dribbled toward the center and rifled a low shot into the back of the net.

Less than 10 minutes later, América defender Bruno Valdéz put the Águilas in front. Domínguez hit a low corner kick from the right, Paul Aguilar deflected it with his head near the edged of the box and the onrushing Valdez scooped home the rebound before the defense could react.

The Bravos gathered themselves and stayed in the match, preventing América from increasing its lead while searching for openings in the Aguilas defense.

In minute 85, Juárez patiently lined up for a free kick from wide on the right flank as Gabriel Hachen stood over the ball. América tipped its hand, executing an offside trap but Hachen resent and waited while his mates got back onside. América tried the trap again but failed to execute it properly as Mauro Fernández delayed his run at the back side and headed back into the center where four Bravos stood alone in front of goalie Agustín Marchesin as América players waved for an offside call.

Marchesin saved the first point-blank shot from Jonathan Lacerda with a splendid diving save but the rebound bounced to Edy Brambila to the right of goal. Brambila – who came up through the Pachuca farm system and played for eight years in Liga MX – waited as the América players scrambling to get back in the play overran the action, then picked out Leandro Carrijo with a square pass and the 33-year-old Brazilian bulged the back of the net from 4 meters out.

Juárez survived the frantic final 5 minutes (and 3 minutes of injury time) then showed tremendous poise and concentration during the shootout, only missing 1 of 10 attempts (converting 10 of 11 vs. Marchesin, counting Prieto’s earlier penalty kick). Márquez made the game-clinching save on Renato Ibarra’s penalty shot to send the Bravos into a quarterfinal match-up against Cruz Azul. That game will also be played in Estadio Azteca.

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Tijuana 1, Cruz Azul 2

The Cementeros outlasted 10-man Tijuana as Édgar Méndez recorded a goal and an assist, but both teams were hurt by absolutely awful refereeing from Adonai Escobedo.

Cruz Azul was enjoying the better of the match when Xolos forward Erick Castillo stumbled while charging forward with the ball at his feet. The Ecuadorian crashed into Cruz Azul defender Pablo Aguilar and Escobedo inexplicably showed him a red card when a simple foul would have been sufficient.

Four minutes later, Méndez put the Cementeros ahead after chasing down a lovely lofted lead pass from Misael Domínguez and pounding a low shot past Tijuana goalie Miguel Lajud.

Ref Escobedo struggled to be in position and frustrated both teams with some calls while permitting similar clashes to go unpenalized. Cruz Azul in particular suffered as the man with the whistle allowed some veritable muggings by Tijuana defenders to go unpunished. By the end of the match, Cruz Azul coach Pedro Caixinha had seen enough and he was tossed from the game, verbally unloading on the referee as he stalked to the locker room in injury time.

Cruz Azul seemed to have put the contest to bed just before the hour mark, Martín Cauteruccio cut across the face of his marker and the Spaniard Méndez released a perfectly weighted pass into the box which the Argentine striker controlled before rolling a firm shot off the far post and into the net.

Unfortunately for the Cementeros, fullback José Madueña knocked home a perfect volley into his own net just three minutes later, giving the Xolos renewed life. Tijuana pressed forward despite being shorthanded and forced several difficult stops from the scrambling Cruz Azul defense.

Ninth-seeded Cruz Azul will now host No. 16 Juárez in the quarterfinals next week.

Necaxa 0, León 2

Necaxa did the impossible on Tuesday night. They made León look like a good team.

The defending Copa MX champs looked awful in front of their home fans in their first knockout game of the Apertura 2018 Cup tourney; in fact, several players looked as if they had checked out already. Coach Marcelo Michel should be embarrassed at his team’s performance.

León – whose league season has taken a nose dive – gave new coach Ignacio Ambriz a measure of revenge. Ambriz – a Necaxa legend as a player – led the Rayos to the Copa MX title last season but was dumped in favor of Michel at the end of the Clausura 2018 calendar. Tuesday’s 2-0 win was his second game in charge of the Esmeraldas since taking over for Gustavo Díaz and it could give León a bump as it heads into the home stretch of so far disappointing league season.

Yairo Moreno scored just before halftime when right fullback Luis Felip Gallegos got turned around on a cross-field pass that went over his head then overran the play. Moreno calmly trapped the ball then bounced a left-footer over Yosgart Gutiérrez who was left stranded by his blundering defense. Twice earlier in the half, Gutiérrez was forced to make saves when soft back passes were intercepted by hustling León forwards.

In minute 82, already a man down, Necaxa right fullback José Medina gave up on a play behind him and while he was trotting back half-heartedly into position, Leo López sidestepped Luis Pérez who was trying to cover for Medina, then deked Gutiérrez before firing into the open net.

León plays the winner of the Chivas-Pumas match next week in the quarterfinals. If the Chivas win, the game will be in Guadalajara. If UNAM wins, the match will be held in León.

Pachuca 3, Tapachula 0

The Tuzos made quick work of the Cafateleros as Leo Ulloa scored twice in the opening 16 minutes then added a 41st-minute penalty kick to complete his hat trick. Chaco Giménez had earlier missed a penalty for Pachuca, but the Tuzos were in control of the match from beginning to end.

Ulloa was signed from Leicester City three weeks into the league season to provide some offensive punch and he has only recently found his way onto the pitch in the past three weeks, scoring his first goal with the Tuzos on Sept. 4 in a Copa match. The 32-year-old opened the scoring in minute 6 with a finely placed header off a corner kick. Ten minutes later he stole the ball at the top of the penalty area and quickly slotted home with his left foot. In minute 41, Ulloa converted a penalty kick.

The Argentine striker has only seen 40 minutes of action in league play, coming on as a late sub in each of the Tuzos’ last two games, but Tuesday night’s performance will surely earn him some more playing time.

Pachuca could have scored 6 goals in the first half, grazing the woodwork three times including on Giménez’s missed penalty kick. The Tuzos continued pressing forward in the second half but failed to add to the scoreline despite numerous opportunities.

No. 2 seed Pachuca advances to the quarterfinals and will await the winner of the Tigres-Puebla match.