Liga MX triple-header fails to supply fireworks

Pumas defender Luis Quintana knocks down a bouncing ball as Tijuana's Ariel Nahuelpan and teammate Andrés Iniestra look on. (Photo by Gonzalo Gonzalez/Jam Media/Getty Images)
Pumas defender Luis Quintana knocks down a bouncing ball as Tijuana's Ariel Nahuelpan and teammate Andrés Iniestra look on. (Photo by Gonzalo Gonzalez/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

Offense in short supply as Weekend Kick-off triple-header produces only 5 goals, one of which came 6 minutes into extra time.

Matchday 4 in the Liga MX opened with a Friday night triple-header in which goals were hard to come by.

For the second time this week, Monterrey was stuck in the locker room at halftime due to a lightning storm. This time, however, the game was resumed and the Rayados defeated host Morelia 1-0 when Miguel Layún scored in minute 90+6.

In Tijuana, a moment of inspiration in minute 10 was enough to give the Xolos a 1-0 win over visiting UNAM. At the same time, Atlas overcame an early 1-0 to win on a penalty kick by Osvaldo Martínez and extend Veracruz’s victory drought to 349 days.

Once again, Liga MX refs had a lousy Friday, with all three judges getting low marks on the night. A review of the ref assignments reveal that Adonai Escobedo was left out this weekend, just as I suggested last week after his terrible performance in the Atlas-Santos match.

Morelia 0, Monterrey 1

Monarcas defender “Shaggy” Martínez was shown his second yellow card in minute 44 and, from then on, host Morelia sat back and absorbed Rayados pressure, nearly salvaging a point.

Monterrey dominated possession but could not figure out how to break down Morelia’s packed-in defense. Despite 69% possession and 18 shots, the Rayados only got 3 shots on goal. But it was the final shot on goal that did the trick.

Liga MX Matchday 4
Monterrey keeper Marcelo Barovero rises to claim the ball and end a Morelia threat. (Photo by Angel Castillo/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

With less than 2 minutes remaining in added time, Dorlan Pabón got possession wide right and lifted a low cross into a crowd near the top of the goalie box. A deflection squirted the ball to the top of the penalty box and Miguel Layún chopped at it with his left foot, sending a bouncing ball that trickled through the scrum and past a diving Sebastian Sosa into the corner of the Morelia net.

Ref Luis Enrique Santander was criticized after the game by both teams, although Monterrey’s complaints were muted by the victory. Morelia thought Santander was too strict with the yellow cards, feeling aggrieved that “Shaggy” was ejected on two simple fouls. As for the Rayados, ESPN’s post-game soccer show shared three plays where a Morelia player could have easily been given a straight red card.

The win is the second straight for Monterrey, lifting them momentarily into 8th place with 6 points. Morelia is stuck on 3 points in 14th place.

Xolos 1, Pumas 0

Against the run of play, the Xolos turned a throw-in into a fast break, with Camilo Sanvezzo converting his second goal of the season for his new team.

Liga MX Friday night Matchday 4
Camilo Sanvezzo celebrates after scoring Tijuana’s lone goal of the night. (Photo by Gonzalo Gonzalez/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

Ariel Nahuelpan did much of the dirty work on the scoring play, fighting to maintain possession before nodding it over to Lolo Miranda in the center circle. Mirando surveyed the field and saw Miller Bolaños breaking free down the right flank, kept onside by Pumas defender Luis Quintana on the opposite side of the field. Bolaños pushed the ball forward into the box then slid a firm cross to Sanvezzo on the left flank and the Brazilian slotted home before Pumas keeper Alfredo Saldívar could cover his back post.

The Pumas had the better possession in the second half as Tijuana narrowed their lines and looked for the counter. The visitors simply couldn’t create space to take aim at net and ended the game with only one shot on goal.

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For the second straight weekend, ref Marco Antonio Ortiz had a sub-par game. He whistled 50 fouls on the night, but showed only eight yellow cards. Ortiz allowed too much contact and both teams got frustrated at the lack of consistency in his calls. He seemed to lose control just before the half-hour mark when he allowed Pumas players to get physical with Xolos defender Omar Mendoza who was taking his time leaving the field after getting treatment. Two Pumas manhandled Mendoza, shoving him off the field so play could resume. Ortiz rushed in and showed yellow to Mendoza first, then to Pumas goalie Saldívar.

The game proceeded to get chippy and sloppy thereafter and players from both teams chirped at Ortiz the rest of the match.

With the win, Tijuana has 7 points and moves momentarily into 4th place, passing the Pumas who remain at 6 points, slipping into 5th place.

Veracruz 1, Atlas 2

The lowly Tiburones got on the board in minute 11 when Cristian Menéndez shook free from his marker on a corner kick and headed home from the back post. Veracruz squandered a chance to go up 2-0 just before the half when Colin Kazim-Richards sent a penalty kick wide of the net.

Atlas tied it up in minute 54 although goal-scorer Javier Correa could have been called for a foul. Chasing a long lead pass, Correa appeared to shove defender Luis Galicia, sending him sprawling, before continuing in alone on goal. No whistle was forthcoming.

Veracruz nearly regained the lead in minute 69 when Sebastián Rodríguez chipped Atlas goalie Camilo Vargas but defender Jorge Segura raced back to head the ball over the crossbar.

In minute 77, Tiburones defender Carlos Gutiérrez blocked a centering pass out of bounds for a corner kick. Then VAR buzzed down and ref César Ramos went to the video booth. Replays appeared to show the ball hit Gutiérrez on the elbow while he had his arm tucked against his body. Somehow, ref Ramos deemed it a penalty and for the second week in a row, Atlas benefited from a dubious penalty call. Just like last week, “Osvaldito” slammed home the kick and Atlas walked off with a 2-1 win.

The Zorros move into a tie for first with 9 points, pending the rest of the weekend’s results. Veracruz remains in the cellar with 1 point.