Atlas, Puebla battle to stalemate; Cruz Azul in crisis

Puebla's Maxi Araujo (right) tormented the Atlas defense for much of their match, a game that ended in a 1-1 draw. (Photo by Agustin Cuevas/Getty Images)
Puebla's Maxi Araujo (right) tormented the Atlas defense for much of their match, a game that ended in a 1-1 draw. (Photo by Agustin Cuevas/Getty Images) /
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Guillermo Martínez executes a bicycle kick to score the game-tying goal against defending Liga MX champions Atlas in minute 90+5. (Photo by Agustin Cuevas/Getty Images) /

Atlas and Puebla settled for a draw Friday night, leaving the door open for Cruz Azul to climb to the top of the Liga MX table.

The Cementeros today host a stumbling Necaxa side that just fired its coach but “La Máquina” has internal problems of its own.

Meanwhile at the bottom of the table, perennial title favorite América is scrambling to avoid sinking into last place. That’s right! The mighty Aguilas are a loss to Santos Laguna away from being the worst team in Liga MX.

Also Saturday, the Chivas are trying to maintain some momentum when the Tigres come roaring into town, while mid-table Toluca hosts an Atlético de San Luis franchise that is hoping new coach André Jardine can work some of his Olympic magic.

Late wonder goal denies Liga MX champs 3 road points

The Puebla-Atlas game figured to be the marquee game of Matchday 5, but it turned into a slog, both teams displaying smothering defense. The host Camoteros had the better of the first half, hitting the Zorros on the counter and forcing two tough saves from Atlas keeper Camilo Vargas.

At the other end of the pitch, Atlas could not get a sniff at goal and a scoreless draw seemed to be in the works, especially as the Liga MX champs looked skittish up front and hesitant carrying out of the back.

Early in the second half, VAR made its presence felt. After a lengthy delay, Puebla saw a brilliant, lashing strike erased due to a foul that had caused the turnover leading directly to the goal.

Minutes later, VAR summoned Víctor Cáceres to look at the video screen and the young ref made the obvious call – penalty against Puebla. Julio Furch stepped up … and sent a low shot directly at Antony Silva and the game remained scoreless.

With time running, Atlas forward Julián Quiñones outmuscled Diego de Buen to give Atlas the lead. Edgar Zaldívar sent a lovely pass into the left channel, where Quiñones ran it down. The Colombian then held off De Buen’s attempt to force him wide, shielding the ball as he rounded the Puebla defender before zipping a left-footer into the roof of the net, giving Atlas a 1-0 lead in minute 85.

The Zorros seemed certain to rise to the top of the table as they were the stingiest defense in Liga MX last season and had conceded only 2 goals through four matches in the Clausura 2022.

But as the clock reached 90+5, three Puebla subs combined to find the equalizer.

George Corral hoisted a long, desperate throw-in into the box, Kevin Ramírez prolonged it with his noggin, then Guillermo Martínez slowed it down with his forehead then rapidly ripped a bicycle kick past the stunned Vargas. The Estadio Cuauhtémoc crowd erupted in jubilation.

The two squads now sit atop the Liga MX table with 11 points, awaiting the outcome of Saturday’s Cruz Azul-Necaxa match and Monday’s Pachuca-Querétaro contest. Cruz Azul has 10 points while Pachuca has 9 points.