As opening playoff games go, Club América’s victory over Santos Laguna takes some beating. An utterly crazy yet enthralling match, littered with defensive errors was a breathtaking start to La Liguilla and what was looking disastrous for Antonio Mohamed and his América side turned out to be a valuable first leg victory.
Osvaldo Martínez gave Las Águilas the lead after 12 minutes but the early goal papered over what was another rather disjointed performance. Undeterred by falling behind, Santos began to take control of the game and it came as little surprise when Santos drew level.
A free kick floated into the box was headed home by Rodolfo Salinas as he ghosted into the box unmarked to leave Moises Muñoz with little chance. Minutes after the break, another poor piece of defending allowed the talented, Darwin Quintero to tap Santos in front and moments later, another awfully defended set-piece allowed Ribaír Rodríguez to flick the ball over Muñoz and give Los Verdiblancos a commanding lead.
Ámerica’s hopes were fading fast but when Raúl Jiménez powerfully headed a goal back it set in motion an extraordinary finale. With less than 1o minutes remaining, the number 9 rose again to head América level and in the 87th minute an improvised, back-heel finish completed the comeback and Jiménez’s hat trick.
There was still time for Rubens Sambueza to fire in a fifth and a two-goal cushion which Las Águilas will be more confident of defending. The only negative coming with Maza Rodriguez’s stupid sending off for making some obscene gestures to the crowd.
Provided El Turco can get a more disciplined, defensive performance from his side you would expect América to progress.
Club América 5 – 3 Santos Laguna
Later, Cruz Azul earned a valuable away draw against current champions, León in a match that may not have had the goals but was certainly not short of tension and quality.
A meeting between the best team from the regular season and the champions, who were undoubtedly hindered by Copa Libertadores commitments earlier in the season was an intriguing contest.
Mariano Pavone headed La Máquina into an early lead but the home side were playing better than their 8th place finish suggested and got a deserved equaliser after 20 minutes. José Cárdenas exchanged touches with Mauro Boselli before smashing a shot into the top corner.
Los Esmeraldas perhaps deserved more as they forced Jesus Corona into a number of good saves but could not find a way past and were naturally wary of their visitors on the break.
With the draw and the away goal, it is perhaps advantage Cruz Azul but an improved León and a much better performance from the influential ‘Gullit’ Peña means that they cannot be counted out.
León 1 – 1 Cruz Azul