In Finals rematch, Atlas and León battle to 1-1 tie

Franco Troyansky (right) nearly got Atlas on the board in minute 8, but was foiled by a fine save by Rodolfo Cota. (Photo by Leopoldo Smith/Getty Images)
Franco Troyansky (right) nearly got Atlas on the board in minute 8, but was foiled by a fine save by Rodolfo Cota. (Photo by Leopoldo Smith/Getty Images) /
Atlas ties Leon
Atlas midfielder Edgar Zaldívar celebrates after scoring the equalizer as León goalie Rodolfo Cota looks on. (Photo by Cesar Gomez/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

Holders Atlas stole into León Wednesday night and came away with a key early-season point as last season’s Liga MX finalists played to a draw.

Angel Mena gave the Esmeraldas a 1-0 lead when he converted from the penalty spot in minute 22 and the hosts controlled the rest of the first half but were unable to extend their lead.

Five minutes into the second half, Atlas tied the score. A long cross by Jairo Torres from the left flank soared over León goalie Rodolfo Cota and Edgar Zaldivar leaped high to knock the ball into the net with his right foot before crashing into the post.

The Zorros then dropped back into a defensive posture and closed off León’s passing lanes, preventing the Esmeraldas from getting any good looks at goal. In fact, Atlas was closer to getting the winner than was León.

Atlas forced to rely on defense

The defending champs climbed into sixth place with the draw, now 1-1-0 including their 1-0 win over Atlético de San Luis last week. León remains winless, settling for a second tie after escaping Tijuana with a point despite being outplayed by the Xolos.

León should feel dejected about dropping points as Atlas was forced to play without top scorers Julio Furch and Julián Quiñones, both of whom were unavailable due to Covid protocols.

Diego Cocca opted for a 5-4-1 alignment instead of the 5-3-2 that was so successful last season. Franco Troyansky got the start up front and Zaldívar served as the extra midfielder. Troyansky had a chance to get the Zorros on the scoreboard in minute 8, getting behind the defense after a León turnover but Cota deflected the shot wide. On the resulting corner kick, Atlas skipper Aldo Rocha clanged a header off far post and that was the extent of the Zorros offense for the first half.

A few minutes later, Federico Martínez almost scored on his León debut. The striker found space just outside the box but his right-footed blast was parried safely away by Camilo Vargas.

In minute 18, Martínez led Víctor Dávila into the box and the Chilean fired wide. As Dávila finished his follow through Atlas defender Anderson Santamaría clattered into his plant foot, a foul that was missed by ref Fernando Hernández. VAR buzzed down and a penalty was called.

León went on to control the rest of the half and Vargas made a nice diving save on a Luis Montes free kick just before the whistle.

Atlas found its defensive footing in the second half, holding the Esmeraldas to a single off-target shot.

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Cocca will hope he gets his scoring tandem back quickly as América pays a visit to Estadio Jalisco on Saturday. León will go for its first win of the season against second-place Pachuca at home the same night.