Late Mena brace leads Leon to 3-2 win over Atlas

Ángel Mena celebrates after converting a penalty kick in minute 85 to put Leon ahead 3-2. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)
Ángel Mena celebrates after converting a penalty kick in minute 85 to put Leon ahead 3-2. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images) /
Liga MX Final Leon Atlas
Leon winger Jean Meneses was a constant menace for the Atlas defense. The Chilean assisted on his team’s first goal and played a key role in the second. (Photo by Leopoldo Smith/Getty Images) /

Angel Mena scored twice late to lead Leon to a 3-2 home win over Atlas in the first leg of the Liga MX Finals.

The visiting Zorros appeared set to win their second straight road playoff game after a spectacular Julio Furch goal put Atlas ahead 2-1 in minute 65. And even after Mena tied it 13 minutes later, the “Rojinegros” would at least hold onto the draw, right?

Atlas hadn’t given up more than two goals all season in marching to the No. 2 seed. And the last time the Zorros had given up three goals in a game was all the way back in April. Oh, and that was Leon, too.

The go-ahead goal came from the penalty spot in minute 85 after a mildly controversial call in the box against Atlas skipper Aldo Rocha. Mena calmly rocketed the ball into the back of the net and the 30,000-strong crowd at the Camp Nou went crazy.

Leon perseverance pays off in the end

Leon dominated the statistics throughout the match (69% possession – much of it in the Atlas end – 80% pass completion rate, 12 to 8 advantage in shots taken) but struggled to solve the Zorros’ amoeba-like defense.

Atlas went ahead in minute 11 when a throw-in bounded through a crowd and into the box where Luis Reyes reacted first, slotting home with his right foot from just above the penalty spot.

The lead was erased with a golazo 26 minutes later when Víctor Dávila lashed home from 18 meters, culminating a lightning-quick counterattack.

With Atlas sitting back and absorbing pressure, Leon spent considerable time in the offensive third, probing and testing, but rarely getting a good look at goal. The score held to halftime and remained unchanged for another 20 minutes after the restart.

Out of nowhere, the visitors were back in front. Furch contested a high re-centering pass just outside the box, the ball bounced through and line-mate Julián Araujo prevented William Tesillo from clearing the ball. Furch pounced and rocketed a left-footer inside the near post, stunning the Camp Nou faithful.

Surely the league’s stingiest defense would be able to see out a 2-1 win with only 25 minutes remaining, right? Well, not so much.

A series of sloppy clearance efforts allowed Leon to maintain possession in view of net. Jean Meneses gathered in a loose ball just above the half-moon, stepped around a challenge and let fly from 20 meters. All-world goalie Camilo Vargas inexplicably left a rebound and Mena was first in, knocking home the equalizer.

Six minutes later, Dávila went down in a heap after a minor tug from Rocha and replays did not convincingly clear Dávila of flopping accusations. Even so, ref Luis Enrique Santander stuck with his original call and Mena made no mistake.

Next. El Tri ends 2021 with draw vs Chile. dark

The two clubs travel to Guadalajara for Sunday’s return leg at Estadio Jalisco. Second-seeded Atlas must win by two to claim its first title in 70 years. A one-goal victory would force overtime. No. 3 seed Leon can hoist its ninth Liga MX trophy with a draw or a win.