Aguilas overcome halftime deficit, soar past host Mazatlan FC

How do you like me now? Diego Valdés gestures to the Mazatlán crowd after scoring the equalizer for America. (Photo by Sergio Mejia/Getty Images)
How do you like me now? Diego Valdés gestures to the Mazatlán crowd after scoring the equalizer for America. (Photo by Sergio Mejia/Getty Images) /
America beats Mazatlan
Mazatlán goalie Hugo González had a fine game, making six big-time saves, but league-leading America was too much for him and the Aguilas forged a 2-1 road win. (Photo by Sergio Mejia/Getty Images) /

America stretched its lead atop the Liga MX table to 6 points after a comeback win at Mazatlán FC on Friday night.

The Aguilas got second-half goals from Diego Valdés and Igor Lichnofsky to fashion the 2-1 victory over the Cañoneros.

America now has 27 points from an 8-3-1 record as well as a league-best 27 goals in 12 games. Defending champion Tigres (21 points) are in second place with a game at Pachuca on Saturday.

Mazatlán falls to 2-4-6 and remains buried in 16th place, but is safe from falling into the cellar because the two teams below “The Purple Gang” in the standings – Puebla and Necaxa – play each other this weekend.

Straight from sick bay onto the score sheet

Valdés – now America’s top scorer with 6 goals – was back in the line-up after missing the past two games and he saw 60 minutes of action.

The Chilean playmaker was his usual frisky self and managed a shot on goal in the first half, but was otherwise held in check. Early in the second half, Valdés was the beneficiary of a picture-perfect cut-back pass from Alex Zendejas and he banged home the equalizer with conviction.

After the Valdés goal, Mazatlán was hurt by indecisiveness, too often hesitating with the ball up for grabs or failing to press the advantage when in possession.

Cañoneros keeper Hugo González preserved the tie in minute 68 with a sprawling save of a point-blank shot by Jonathan Rodríguez. He made another save at full stretch in minute 75, but on the resulting corner kick defender Lichnofsky overpowered his marker at the back post and put the visitors ahead.

America falls behind against the run of play

The Aguilas found themselves down 1-0 at the half despite being the protagonists. That’s primarily because Mazatlán’s González stood on his head, producing four outstanding saves before the break.

Another reason America was trailing was that coach André Jardine had changed out his engine room. Starting midfielders Jonathan dos Santos and Álvaro Fidalgo opened the game on the bench. The Fidalgo/Dos Santos duo is 1-2 in pass completions; the Spaniard tops all Liga MX players with 718 passes completed and Dos Santos follows with 663.

Without the midfield platform from which to attack the Cañoneros’ defense in the first 45 minutes, America was too impulsive and a bit reckless at times. Still, the Aguilas generated quite a few rushes forward. Unfortunately, when they finished those plays with shots, González was there to say “Not on my watch!”

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Mazatlán’s goal came in minute 39 off a quick-strike counter-attack with Luis Amarilla racing onto a nifty Yoel Bárcenas return pass and chipping over the onrushing Luis Malagón. Defender Sebastián Cáceres got a leg on the ball as it floated toward the back post but was unable to prevent it going over the line.