Despite collapse, Cementeros top table at FIFA break

Cruz Azul climbed into first place despite conceding two goals and settling for a draw against Monterrey. (Photo by JULIO CESAR AGUILAR/AFP via Getty Images)
Cruz Azul climbed into first place despite conceding two goals and settling for a draw against Monterrey. (Photo by JULIO CESAR AGUILAR/AFP via Getty Images) /
Liga MX matchday 3
América lost at home to Liga MX champions Atlas on Saturday and is winless after two matches. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images) /

Liga MX heads into the FIFA break after a wild, wacky Matchday 3 that saw Cruz Azul climb into first place despite a late-game collapse that cost them a victory.

The Cementeros are joined at the top of the Liga MX table on 7 points by holders Atlas who stunned América in Estadio Azteca even though leading scorer Julio Furch has yet to play a single minute.

UNAM led Liga MX after the first two matchdays, but a controversial home loss to the Tigres (beneficiaries of a late penalty call) left the Pumas a point adrift of the new leaders but still leading the league in goals scored (9).

Also on 6 points are FC Juárez and Toluca, each producing key – though unconvincing – road wins, while Pachuca saw its perfect record stymied by an efficient León side.

Liga MX powers off to uneven start

Perennial title favorites América find themselves in 14th place (with a game in hand) thanks to an 0-1-1 start. Fans are lashing out at GM Santiago Baños who has been unable to fulfill coach Santiago Solari’s wish list.

The Aguilas have reportedly struck out on their fourth right wing target, Santos Laguna’s Juan Otero, after Guerreros coach Pedro Caixinha declared Otero was key to his plans. Earlier, talks to acquire Pablo Solari (Colo Colo), Brian Ocampo (Uruguay’s Nacional) and Paul Arriola (DC United) collapsed in embarrassing fashion.

The 2-0 loss to Atlas on Saturday was the second straight at home after the shocking 3-1 quarterfinals setback to UNAM in November, perhaps allowing other Liga MX teams to feel less intimidated about playing the Aguilas in Fortress Azteca.

The three northern powers are also off to unsteady starts though Monterrey might get a lift after scoring twice in added time to erase a 2-0 deficit and deny Cruz Azul a perfect start to the season.

Rogelio Funes Mori cut the deficit in half in minute 90+2 and the Cementeros appeared to panic. Then, defender César Montes equalized in minute 90+7, reviving the verb “cruzazulear” which “La Máquina” thought it had shrugged off after its run to the Guardianes 2021 title.

The draw lifted the Rayados into a seventh-place tie at 5 points, but also left Javier Aguirre’s team (the club with the highest payroll in Liga MX) winless at home after its scoreless draw against lowly Querétaro in the season opener.

Monterrey’s crosstown rivals Tigres were lucky to escape the CU with their first win of the season. Last season’s Liga MX co-scoring leader Nico López poked home a loose ball in the box in minute 78 to equalize before André-Pierre Gignac converted a spot kick after a soft penalty call in added time.

About 200 miles west of the Nuevo León capital, Santos Laguna fans are in shock after their heroes were routed by minnows Necaxa … at home! Fans aren’t yet calling for the head of Caixinha in his first season back in Liga MX (he did lead the Guerreros to Clausura 2015 title, after all), but an 0-1-2 start was not expected.

Santos has been completely out of sorts this season and its –5 goal differential does not sit well with the Guerreros faithful. And after the 4-1 beatdown Necaxa handed them at Estadio Corona – one of the toughest Liga MX venues for visiting teams – the FIFA break might have come at the perfect time for the Portuguese coach to tinker with his line-up and tactics. Caixinha must fix things quickly since their next game is at defending Liga MX champs Atlas on Feb. 6.

dark. Next. Juve closing in on Vlahovic deal

Liga MX Matchday 4 kicks off on Feb. 5 with four games, though Tijuana visits Puebla on Friday after their match was postponed due to a Covid outbreak among Xolos players.