10-man Aguilas escape Estadio Cuauhtémoc with a draw

Salvador Reyes slotted home here just 10 seconds after the opening whistle to give América an early lead at Puebla. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)
Salvador Reyes slotted home here just 10 seconds after the opening whistle to give América an early lead at Puebla. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images) /
Liga MX Puebla America
América coach Santiago Solari (center) earned a red card for coming onto the pitch to argue a call in Friday’s Liga MX season opener in Puebla. (Photo by Jam Media/Getty Images) /

América battles Puebla to stalemate in Liga MX season opener

A Salvador Reyes goal just 10 seconds in was not good enough to earn América an Opening Night win at Puebla. As the Aguilas were comfortably managing the advantage, a Roger Martínez red card in minute 36 changed the complexion of the Liga MX season opener for both teams.

The host Camoteros found the equalizer just before halftime but could not solve the América defense in the second half as the Aguilas parked the bus in front of Guillermo Ochoa and scrapped their way to a 1-1 draw.

Puebla – a Liga MX quarterfinalist last season – outshot the visiting Aguilas 24-8 and enjoyed 68% of possession, but they lacked a refined touch in front of Ochoa, forcing only two saves from the El Tri goalie.

América coach Santiago Solari is under pressure to win the Liga MX title in this, his third season, and the pressure he faces was evident when he was shown a red card for storming onto the pitch to complain about Martínez’s ejection (an action that could carry as much as a 6-game suspension).

Still, Solari will grudgingly accept a road point since eight top players were unavailable due to injury or Covid, including new acquisitions Diego Valdés and Jona dos Santos.

The Aguilas saw their seven-game win streak against Puebla come to an end. “Los AzulCremas” topped the Liga MX table last season but lost in the quarterfinals for the third consecutive season, so they’ll be hoping to avoid a slow start. The Mexico City powerhouse plays Mazatlán FC next week before an early-season test against reigning Liga MX champs Atlas on Jan. 22.

In Friday’s other Matchday 1 contest, host FC Juárez held off 10-man Necaxa to claim an important 2-1 win over the visiting Rayos.

Diego Rolán scored twice for “Tuca” Ferretti’s side, offsetting an own-goal by teammate Ventura Alvarado. In minute 50, Necaxa goalie Luis Malagón was ejected for a hard foul that led to the game-winning penalty shot sequence.

The Bravos are fighting to escape the Relegation Zone while Necaxa sits only 8 points above them in 15th place. Although Liga MX will not be demoting clubs at the end of this season (promotion/demotion will resume with the 2022-2023 season), the team finishing in 18th place in the Relegation Table must pay an 80 million-peso fine, while finishing in 17th place (47 million pesos) and 16th place (33 million pesos) also carries hefty penalties.

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FC Juárez and Necaxa will be fighting to climb out of danger this year and both made significant roster changes during the ongoing winter transfer window (though it was more about quantity than quality as neither club is a genuine Liga MX title contender).