Monterrey settled for draw with Pumas allowing Chivas an opportunity to take over first place.
The Rayados failed to protect a 1-0 lead over the 10-man UNAM Pumas Sunday afternoon, leaving the door open for the Chivas to take over the top of the table if they win Monday night.
Elsewhere, Cruz Azul was beaten by a former player, Tigres finally won a home game, América sent Querétaro to its fifth straight defeat to open the Clausura and Tijuana blanked visiting Toluca.
Visiting Monterrey got a break in minute 24 when UNAM defender Luis Antonio Quintana was shown a red card for charging into Rogelio Funes Mori from behind as the Rayados striker got behind the defense. Not only were the Pumas now down a man, but Dorlan Pabón buried the ensuing free kick into the net and the Rayados had a 1-0 lead.
Monterrey played patiently with the man advantage, but perhaps too conservatively, rarely creating clear scoring chances. In minute 73, Funes Mori made a brilliant individual play in front of net, stepping in all alone on goalie Alfredo Saldívar who made a reflex save – a kick save – to deny the Rayados a second goal.
The save by the keeper seemed to spark the Pumas and they began to pressure the Monterrey defense. In minute 83, UNAM got forward and found space inside after collecting a rebound, passing four times while still inside the box looking for an opening. The ball was passed backward to Juan Iturbe and his left-footed blast from 24 meters ricocheted off Monterrey’s Celso Ortiz and bounded into the net as goalie Marcelo Barovero had already started in the other direction.
Monterrey will be disappointed with the outcome and questions about consistency will be forthcoming as the Rayados were expected to defeat the Pumas.
New Pumas coach Bruno Marioni earned his first point in his first game in front of the passionate UNAM fans at Estadio Olímpico Universitario. Monterrey moves into sole possession of first place with 11 points, one more than Necaxa, Tigres and Atlas. Guadalajara is in fith place with 9 points and could leapfrog the Rayados with a win against Veracruz on Monday night.
León 2, Cruz Azul 0
The Esmeraldas defeated Cruz Azul for the second time in three weeks and, in both matches, former Cementero midfielder Angel Mena scored. This time round, Mena converted a penalty kick in minute 19 and delivered a beauty of an assist to Jean Meneses for León’s second goal just before halftime.
Cruz Azul entered the game with a make-shift back line due to injuries and less than 20 minutes in the Cementeros were down to 10 men when replacement left back Yoshimar Yotun was called for a controversial penalty (confirmed by VAR, but still a weak call).
In minute 45, Mena got free down the right side and lifted a cross all the way to the opposite side of the box where an unmarked Meneses leaped into a half-scissors kick, thumping the ball past Jesús Corona and into the net for a 2-0 lead.
Thirteen minutes after halftime, Cruz Azul forward Milton Caraglio wasted a penalty kick when his left-footed effort was easily smothered by goalie Rodolfo Cota.
León now has 8 points from 5 games (good for 7th place), while Cruz Azul is a point back with 8 points. The Cementeros only have scored only 3 goals (all by Elías Hernández) this season.
Enner Valencia and André-Pierre Gignac scored for the host Tigres, bracketing a goal by Julio Furch and the Tigres climbed into a second-place tie with 10 points.
Santos saw defender Mateus Doria kicked out in minute 67 when his rough tackle of Julián Quiñones was review by VAR and determined to be a red card offense. The Guerreros now have 7 points and find themselves in 8th place.
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América got back on the winning track after its 23-game unbeaten streak was ended by Monterrey. The Aguilas coasted past last-place Querétaro thanks to an early golazo by Renato Ibarra and a late penalty conversion by Roger Martínez. The defending champs are in 5th place with 9 points and buoyed by the arrival of new signing Nico Castillo, the Chilean striker signed from Benfica.
Querétaro is now 0-0-5 in the Clausura, in dead last with an -11 goal differential.
In Tijuana, the host Xolos defeated Toluca 2-0 to give new coach Oscar Pareja his first win of the season. Miller Bolaños and Fabián Castilllo scored for the home team while the Xolos defense swarmed all over the Diablos and prevented the visitors from getting a single shot on net.