América edges Pumas in ‘Capital Classic;’ Tigres outscore Mazatlán FC

Jonathan Rodríguez nods home a rebound of his own penalty kick, scoring the lone goal of Saturday's Liga MX "Clásico Capitalino". (Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images)
Jonathan Rodríguez nods home a rebound of his own penalty kick, scoring the lone goal of Saturday's Liga MX "Clásico Capitalino". (Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images) /
Liga MX Capital Classic wrap
This is the moment just after UNAM goalie Julio Rodríguez (in green) clipped the left foot of América’s Jonathan Rodríguez, a play that was eventually ruled a penalty. América moved to the top of the Liga MX table with Saturday’s 1-0 win. (Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images) /

The “Clásico Capitalino” at Estadio Azteca had a little bit of everything – one goal, one goal annulled, one penalty, one missed penalty kick, one penalty kick put-back … oh, and a regular old Liga MX mid-game melee.

For those keeping score, América won 1-0 to climb atop the Liga MX table. Its 21 points just 1 better than Tigres and the defending champs are 1 point above Atlético de San Luis.

Second-half sub Jonathan “Cabecita” Rodríguez scored the only goal of the match, reacting first to the cross-bar ricochet off his own flubbed penalty kick.

UNAM goalie Julio Rodríguez blocked the less-than-stellar spot kick but the ball deflected high off his left hip, clipping the crossbar against and “Cabecita” nodded home at the far post as the keeper vainly climbed back to his feet.

Tense opening 15 minutes

Just 9 minutes in, the ball was in the back of the net, but referee Víctor Cáceres and VAR conspired to wave it off.

UNAM’s Rodríguez stopped two shots in quick succession – a Kevin Álvarez low ball and a Henry Martín scoop rebound effort. Martín’s second follow-up shot did cross the goal line but in converting a left-footed volley in prone position, the América forward side-swiped Pumas midfielder Pablo Monroy in the back of the head.

In the next 10 minutes, the visitors raised the temperature of the always heated Liga MX “Classic” with two crunching tackles. A third take-downed earned UNAM the first of five yellow cards on the night.

Cáceres, the young referee tasked with moderating the proceedings, looked like he might be overmatched as this capital derby tends to be among the most physical rivalries in Liga MX.

The new Liga MX leaders were on the front foot most of the first half. The Aguilas asked the Pumas keeper to make another save just before the whistle and Rodríguez had the answer.

The second half saw plenty of back-and-forth action though the Pumas couldn’t find the target (América goalie Luis Malagón was only called upon to make two saves, neither coming before stoppage time).

Just before the hour mark, Leo Suárez scooped up a soft clearance about 30 meters out with Rodríguez well off his line. Leo’s chipped shot clanged off the crossbar and straight down, clearly bouncing in the field of play.

The Pumas quickly dashed out with the ball while the Aguilas were eager to see the video of Suárez’s shot. América’s Kevin Álvarez put his El Tri teammate César Huerta in a half-nelson to stop the Pumas’ counterattack and suddenly we had a good old-fashioned Liga MX donnybrook.

Heavy shoves ensued, the benches cleared and not-so-nice things were said about opponents. Tempers soon cooled and the game resumed.

Rodríguez protected his goal again in minute 68, diving to his left to stop a 23-meter laser from Julián Quiñones.

Minutes later, “Cabecita” chased a deflection behind the defense into the box, running onto the ball and touching around the onrushing Rodríguez who clipped the trailing foot of the América substitute. and Cáceres waved off the sprawled Aguilas’ complaint for a penalty, but in Liga MX VAR is king, and the video official soon advised the referee to take a look in very … slow … motion.

Cáceres bought what VAR was selling and “Cabecita” strode to the spot, ultimately erasing his own candidacy for Goat of the Match by getting to the floating rebound first and popping it home. It was J-Rod’s first goal of an injury-plagued season.

América has now won all three of its Liga MX “Clásicos” in the same season for the second time in three seasons. In this Apertura 2023, the Aguilas routed Guadalajara (“Super Clásico”), edged Cruz Azul (“Clásico Joven”) and completed the sweep with the triumph over UNAM (“Clásico Capitalino”).

Elsewhere in Liga MX

Holders Tigres will wake up in second place on the Liga MX table, their 3-1 road victory at Mazatlán FC boosts them to 20 points, 1 better than Atlético de San Luis.

The Liga MX champs responded well just three nights after after a penalty shoot-out win over LAFC in the Campeones Cup. After a slow start, their offense begin to purr, forcing Cañoneros keeper Ricardo Gutiérrez to make six saves. Nine of the team’s 13 shots were on target.

Diego Lainez matched an early Aké Lobe strike before the half then assisted Nico Ibánez on the go-ahead goal in minute 55. Jonathan Herrera added the third (on a nice feed from André-Pierre Gignac) 10 minutes later.

The Northern giants now have 21 goals through 10 games, tops in Liga MX alongside Atlético de San Luis and one more than América.

With all that, Tigres barely escaped with a 3-2 win. Francisco Venegas had narrowed the deficit to 3-2 in minute 89 then Mazatlán’s  Édgar Bárcenas zipped a rebound shot just past the near-side post.

In Saturday’s other match, host Pachuca battled last-place Necaxa to  a 1-1 draw with both goals coming in early in an evenly played match.

Next. Liga MX: Worst upends first; Xolos rout Bravos. dark

The result lifts Necaxa out of the cellar (in 16th place with 8 points) while the youthful Tuzos (11 points) languish in 14th place.