Ten-man América scrambled to a tie at Morelia while Ariel Nahuelpan led Tijuana to an easy win over visiting Atlas.
América did not deserve to win at Morelia on Friday night, but the Monarcas refused to let them lose.
The Monarcas got on the board in minute 7 when Edison Flores fired home from an angle after Miguel Sansores had somehow back-heeled a pass to him.
Morelia had two great chances to increase its lead in the first half, but Flores sprayed wide from a similar angle that he scored from and then Gaston Lezcano was denied by a fantastic reflex save by América goalie Agustín Marchesin.
América defender Bruno Valdez was spared a red card in the first half when he elbowed Sansores in the face. The video assistant replay stopped play for a consult, but only a yellow card was shown.
Valdez was not so lucky in the second half when he committed a juvenile foul in minute 60. Ref Adonai Escobar showed him a second yellow, then the red. Thirteen minutes later, left back Jorge Sánchez was caught napping and when he tugged on Ray Sandoval’s jersey as the Morelia forward raced into the box after a pass, a penalty was called.
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Rodolfo Vilchis converted the penalty and the Monarcas were on the verge of a stunning upset, leading 2-0 with 17 minutes remaining. In addition, América coach Miguel Herrera had made an unwise substitution – removing defensive midfielder Edson Álvarez and inserting a third striker. This meant América was unbalanced, and outmanned on the back side.
Herrera corrected his line-up soon thereafter, inserting defensive midfielder Sebastián Córdova and removing playmaker Nicolás Benedetti.
Morelia then committed a foolhardy foul, giving América a free kick from straight on, about 25 meters out. Nico Castillo lined it up and thumped a shot over the wall and under the crossbar. Suddenly, it was 2-1 and Morelia was nervous.
The Monarcas then focused on gamesmanship and time-wasting, instead of looking for a third goal. With América pressing forward, Morelia has plenty of counterattacking opportunities, but squandered every one, either with poor passes or hasty shots.
As the clock ticked past 90, América won a corner kick and Morelia opened the door. A Monarcas defender headed the cross high to the goalie’s right and two Morelia players converged on the descending ball. Instead of communicating, Alberto Acosta tried to clear with a bicycle kick instead of allowing his teammate who was in better position to clear. Acosta muffed the clearance, sending it into the center of the box where it was quickly pushed out straight to Córdova who blasted low into the empty net from a sharp angle. The joyous Aguilas exultantly piled on top of Córdova to celebrate his first goal of the season (pictured at top).
The Aguilas will be happy to come home with a point, but coach Herrera can’t be thrilled with his team’s performance against a Monarcas side that had lost 4 straight league matches.
Tijuana 3, Atlas 1
The Xolos jumped on the visiting Zorros right from the start, getting sparkling goals from Erick Castillo and Ariel Nahuelpan in the game’s first 13 minutes.
Castillo chased a lead pass down the left flank, turned toward goal and ripped a shot over the goalie that thumped the base of the far post and ricocheted into the net.
Six minutes later, Atlas turned the ball over in midfield and Gustavo Bou spun with space and dribbled toward goal, drawing a defender. Bou then flicked the ball over the defense as Nahuelpan cut in, trapped the soft pass and one-timed a shot past José Hernández for a 2-0 lead.
Oswaldo Martínez cut the deficit in half in minute 50, knocking in the rebound of his own penalty kick. Tijuana goalie Miguel Lajud had blocked the shot with his face, but it bounded off the left post and straight back to Martínez.
Tijuana tightened up their defense and kept Atlas at bay, finally getting the clincher in minute 79 on a spectacular goal. Nahuelpan took a throw-in from Luis Fuentes wide left and near the end line. He spun toward the line and let fly with a left-footed blast from and impossible angle that caught Hernández napping. The ball bounced into the net before the goalie could recover.
The Xolos stretched their unbeaten streak in all competitions to 8 and Friday’s victory was their third straight in league play. Tijuana temporarily moves into fourth place pending the west of the weekend’s matches, while Atlas is in danger of slipping into the bottom third of the table.