Just another crazy Liga MX weekend …
After weeks of occupying unexpectedly lofty spots in the Liga MX table, Atlético de San Luis and FC Juárez might have been exposed as pretenders on Friday night.
Last-place Cruz Azul – a team that has been in complete disarray all season – straggled into Estadio Alfonso Lastras and stunned league-leading Atleti.
After a scoreless first half, the Cementeros got on the board in minute 51 when Rodolfo Rotondi raced onto a nifty chipped cross by Carlos Rodríguez and nodded it past Diego Urtiaga.
Just under 20 minutes later, Dieter Villalpando seemingly changed the tide with a glorious golazo from 30 meters. But “La Máquina Azul” showed rarely-seen grit and refused to sink to its knees after that thundering gut punch.
Tuneros defender Ricardo Chávez was caught with his hand in the cookie jar by VAR and Uriel Antuna converted the spot kick in minute 87, the Cementeros then hanging on through 16 minutes of extra time (the stadium lights flickered off early in the second half and the game was suspended for 15 minutes).
San Luis (19 points) could tumble to third place if América (vs Pumas) and Tigres (at Mazatlán FC) win their matches tonight. Cruz Azul (8 points) rose to 16th place with the win.
In Tijuana, the dogs have their day
Despite being in fourth place, FC Juárez walked into Tijuana’s Estadio Caliente on a four-game winless streak that included three losses.
Still, the Bravos were considered favorites over a very inconsistent Xolos team whose 11th-place position was propped up by 3 points awarded due to a controversial forfeit. (Liga MX officials stripped Puebla of its win over Tijuana because they had an “ineligible” coach in the dugout.)
As such, it was not surprise that the Bravos were leading as halftime approached. Then disaster struck.
Right back Luis “Chaka” Rodríguez was was whistled for a handball in the box (an iffy call as “Chaka” had his hand in front of his face). Carlos González stepped up and converted the spot kick to even things up.
The Xolos then proved to be poor hosts, swatting four more shots past the beleaguered Alfredo Talavera, cruising to a 5-1 victory that lifts them into 7th place (14 points).
González was one of the second-half goal-scorers, and he now sits alongside Santos Laguna’s Harold Preciado with 7 goals, tops in Liga MX.
The Bravos (15 points) remain in fourth place for now, but could sink as low as seventh pending other weekend results.
Elsewhere in Liga MX
León traveled to Querétaro where the “Battle of the Bajío” ended in a 1-1 draw even though the visitors had the ball at their feet for long stretches. “La Fiera” could boast 64% possession but managed just three shots on goal.
The Esmeraldas have disappointed this season – in 11th place with 12 points – with injuries and departures playing a part, but primarily because Nicolás Larcamón’s men have underperformed.
León was seen as a title contender at the outset of the Apertura 2023, but now making the Liga MX playoffs as a wildcard seems to be their ceiling.
For their part, the Gallos Blancos are proving to be a tough out just one season after finishing in the cellar of the “Relegation Zone” (a curious three-year algorithm used by Liga MX to determine which three teams must pay hefty fines for poor results).
Querétaro is even with León on points, but a spot behind them on the Liga MX table due to goal differential.
Matchday 10 continues Saturday with another triple-header. Pachuca hosts last-place Necaxa, the Pumas visit América in the 148th “Clásico Capitalino” and Mazatlán FC welcomes a Tigres side coming in off a Campeones Cup triumph.