Puebla starts with a bang, then fades; Atlas wins

Edson Rivera of Atlas celebrates after scoring the winning goal against Juárez in their Liga MX season opener. (Photo by Oscar Meza/Jam Media/Getty Images)
Edson Rivera of Atlas celebrates after scoring the winning goal against Juárez in their Liga MX season opener. (Photo by Oscar Meza/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

The new Liga MX season kicked off with a doubleheader that saw the visiting Xolos bite Puebla and host Atlas get past Juárez by the slimmest margin.

Host Puebla scored the first goal of the Apertura 2019 only 15 minutes after the whistle, but Tijuana scored the next three as the Xolos kicked off their season by swiping all 3 points on the road. In Guadalajara, debutante Cd. Juárez played a respectable match but lost to Atlas.

Lucas Cavallini drew a double team as he dribbled down the left channel, then skipped a pass to unmarked strike partner Christian Tabó on the right side. The Uruguayan rounded Xolos keeper Manuel Gibrán Lajud and slotted home to the delight of the hundreds of fans in attendance at Estadio Cuauhtémoc.

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Washington Camacho, Ariel Nahuelpan and Ángel Sepúlveda got on the scoresheet for Tijuana as Oscar Pareja’s squad played a patient, disciplined game, poised to take advantage Puebla errors on defense. And Camoteros defender Néstor Vidrio obliged.

Nahuelpan one-timed a pass from Miller Bolaños that Nicolás Vikonis blocked, but Vidrio had vacated his position in central defense and Camacho raced in to poke home in minute 24.

Puebla enjoyed positional advantage midway through the second half when the Xolos moved forward. Bolaños got free on the right flank and sent a crisp cross into the middle of the box where Nahuelpan was unmarked. The burly Argentine striker headed home to give the visitors a 2-1 lead in minute 78. Vidrio had turned his back on Nahuelpan, then hedged toward the ball even though there were three teammates on that side.

With time running out, Lajud punted the ball deep and Nahuelpan tussled with Vidrio for position. The ball soared over their heads as Vidrio appeared to duck a bit expecting Vikonis to come out to collect the loose ball, but Sepúlveda was running free down the left flank. Sepúlveda got to the ball at the edge of the box as Vikonis rushed out but the Xolos sub (Sepúlveda had checked in less than a minute earlier) nodded a header into the empty net.

The Puebla-Tijuana game was a rematch of the final game of the Clausura 2019 which determined the final playoff team. Tijuana came away with the victory then.

In their first-ever game in first division, the Bravos of Cd. Juárez came up short against an improved Atlas side as Edson Rivera headed home from a corner kick in minute 50 for the only goal of the match.

The Bravos played a decent attacking game in sloppy conditions (the game started an hour late due to heavy rains that left the pitch water-logged) demonstrating that they will not be a conservative, unimaginative team. Juárez enjoyed stretches of free-flowing offense, but Atlas was up to the task and the new central defense pairing of Hugo Nervo and Jorge Segura stood up well. Atlas keeper Camilo Vargas patrolled his area effectively, too.

At the other end, Juárez keeper Iván Vázquez might have been the hero as he made several sparkling saves. He was not at fault on the goal as the Bravos defense failed to mark Rivera on the corner kick and the Zorros forward flicked a header inside the far post to give his team the win.