Leon survives frantic Chivas fightback, win 4-3

J.J. Macias celebrates after converting a penalty kick to open the scoring in Leon's 4-3 win over Guadalajara. (Photo by Leopoldo Smith/Getty Images)
J.J. Macias celebrates after converting a penalty kick to open the scoring in Leon's 4-3 win over Guadalajara. (Photo by Leopoldo Smith/Getty Images) /

The Esmeraldas rediscovered their offense, but had to hold on down the stretch to edge the Chivas.

Leon had been an inconsistent team entering its Matchday 5 contest against Guadalajara. Their play was lackluster. The highlight of the season was a scoreless draw against America, a game in which they showed flashes of the juggernaut they were during the Clausura 2019. So Leon was looking for its first convincing win of the Apertura.

The Chivas didn’t look so bad coming off a 3-0 rout of Atletico San Luis, their first solid all-around performance during which they basically controlled the game. Chivas fans had feared their team would struggle this season, and most lacked faith in coach Tomas Boy who has been on the proverbial hot seat since taking the job last season. Helping the solid start has been the play of midfielder Eduardo “Chofis” Lopez  who was impressive last week against Atletico San Luis.

The Chivas opened in a 3-5-2 formation, sitting back in a defensive posture. Leon enjoyed the majority of possession, spread out in a 4-2-3-1. Guadalajara midfielder Dieter Villalpando took the first shot of the game in the 2nd minute.

Leon takes charge

There was a lot of back-and-forth, until Chivas fullback Jose Carlos Van Rankin took down Jean Meneses inside the box after a poor clearance. Up stepped young J.J. Macias – a former Guadalajara player – to take the penalty. Keeper Antonio Rodriguez went left and J.J. fired the ball low toward the opposite post. Macias celebrate with his teammates and kissed the badge on his shirt.

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Though it was only 1-0, it felt like trouble for the Chivas who had scored just once from open play. Alejandro Zendejas almost lost the ball near the sidelines in minute 37, but recovered and split two defenders with a pass. Alan Pulido ran onto the through ball and fired from outside the box. His shot beat Rodolfo Cota. Chivas and the score was tied 1-1.

Just before the half Leon pushed forward, Meneses got free own the left flank and lifted a beautiful cross to the unmarked Angel Mena and he headed home easily. Leon took the 2-1 advantage into the locker room.

In minute 61, Mena stepped in front of a pass intended for J.J Macias and the ball ricocheted out of danger. That’s when Video Assistant Replay got involved. The video showed Jesus Molina throwing up his arm to deflect Mena’s shot. The penalty was awarded and Molina was shown a yellow card.

Macias stepped up to the spot again. Rodriguez guessed left again and that’s where Macias went, but ex-Chiva blasted it past “Toño.” The game was getting away from the Chivas, now trailing 3-1 and Leon beginning to dominate.

A Leon counter caught the Chivas too far forward. Right back Fernando Navarro delivered a nice ball in stride to Yairo Moreno who slotted home inside the left post to put Leon up 4-1.

Chivas refuse to surrender

Just when it all appeared over, the Chivas began to fight back. In minute 76, Pulido was brought down inside the box as he attempted to win a cross. VAR buzzed down for the second time and a penalty was called. Pulido stutter-stepped to the ball, sending Rodolfo Cota left and shooting right. Chivas now down only 4-2.

Leon edges Chivas
The Chivas scored twice late, but could not find the equalizer. (Photo by Leopoldo Smith/Getty Images) /

Sub Alexis Vega was beginning to influence the match after coming on in minute 70. He seems to have much better chemistry with Pulido than does veteran Oribe Peralta (it’s time for Vega to get the starting spot, right?).

Vega lofted a nice cross into the box in minute 80 that Molina just missed. Then Vega came up with the ball in minute 90+4, eluded two Leon defenders before rounding Cota, and knocking it home. Eight minutes of extra time was played but the Chivas could not find the equalizer and the game ended after a Guadalajara corner, Leon a 4-3 winner.

Coach Boy’s seat just got hotter, while Leon seems to be finding the explosiveness they had last season. Leon will need to stay in rhythm – and improve their defense – since they face a red-hot Queretaro team next week.