Club América wins 15th Liga MX Title

Las Águilas won 1-0 against Mexico City rivals Cruz Azul to lift a record breaking 15th Liga MX title.
Julián  Quiñones #33, of Club America and Diego Valdés #...
Julián Quiñones #33, of Club America and Diego Valdés #... / Eyepix Group/GettyImages

Attention turned to the Estadio Azteca this past Sunday as Club América and Cruz Azul battled for the 2024 Liga MX Clausura title. The first leg at Cruz Azul's Estadio Ciudad de los Deportes ended in a 1-1 stalemate, setting the stage for a thrilling conclusion at the Azteca, where the champions would be decided.

André Jardin named an unchanged side for América, despite the return of Sebastian Caceres from injury. Also missing from the starting lineup was Feyenoord loanee Javario Dilrosun who started in the semi final against Chivas. As for those ruled out through injury, Kevin Álvarez could only watch on from the sidelines in a wheelchair, following a foot injury sustained a few weeks prior to the final along with Illian Hernández, who suffered a broken leg a week before the curtain closer with Crus Azul.

Cruz Azul made just one change between the first and second leg of this finale with Alexis Gutiérrez dropping to the bench in place of veteran Ángel Sepulveda, who headed the line for Azul at the Azteca. Missing due to injury for Azul included Carlos Vargas, Cristian Jiménez, and Gabriel Fernández.

The game was expected to start at 19:000 CST, but due to a heavy hailstorm in the Mexican capital, the kick-off was delayed to 19:45, only adding to the tension for the excited fans in the stadium.

Once the game got underway, Azul started the stronger of the two. Knowing that a draw would not be enough to win the final, Martín Anselmi's men were on the front foot, forcing América goalkeeper Luis Malagón into some great saves. Many reacted to his performance in the final by calling for the América shot-stopper to replace the legendary Guillermo Ochoa in net for Mexico at the Copa América next month.

One of the key talking points came just after the restart when Azul thought they had taken the lead. A complete shock around the stadium as this was not written in the script. In the same manner as the first half, Azul continued with their high press and thought they found themselves in dreamland at the start of the second.

Uriel Antuna hung the ball up to the far post towards the direction of Ignacio Rivero, smashing the post from close range, the rebound found its way to Carlos Rodriguez who could not believe his luck. Running away in jubilation, the referee quickly spoiled the celebrations by calling for offside. In reviewing the goal, it was clear that Antuna started his run too early, with the goal being chalked off.

The decisive moment came in the 70th minute. América grew in confidence throughout the game but could not break Azul's compact 5-man defence. Alex Zendejas had done superbly down the right to win the ball back for América, finding Israel Reyes in the box and racing down on goal, the defender was brought down by Carlos Rotondi, who was lucky not to receive a second yellow card.

VAR reviewed the foul extensively, unsure whether Reyes dived or if there was a genuine contact from Rotondi to bring him down. After a nervy five minutes, the referee opted to agree with the initial decision, giving América the chance to take the lead in the tie.

Henry Martin stepped up to the plate and calmly slotted the spot kick in the opposite direction to the diving Kevin Mier in the Azul net. Following the game's opening goal were fireworks, flares and an onslaught of toilet rolls being thrown onto the pitch.

At that moment, América and their fans started to believe that a record 15th Liga MX title could soon be theirs. After 70 minutes of impressive defensive structure, one rash decision caused Azul to be punished.

As the clock ran down, Azul's chances were few and far between. Being made to rue the missed opportunities in the first leg, and early on in the second, América waited patiently for their chances and capitalised at the right time.

The result means that Azul's three year wait for silverware goes on whilst América were crowned both the 2024 Apertura and Clausura champions, completing a truly dominant 2023/24 season.

Next up for the Mexican football calendar is the Leagues Cup which will be held in July and August, in preparation for the return of the 2024 Liga MX Apertura.