Top-seeded Aguilas take flight in San Luis, rout Atleti 5-0

Valdés, Quiñones and Martín lead América to easy win in semifinal opener
Julián Quiñones (No. 33) and Henry Martín celebrate the latter's goal that put America up 2-0. The Aguilas went on to rout Atletico de San Luis 2-1.
Julián Quiñones (No. 33) and Henry Martín celebrate the latter's goal that put America up 2-0. The Aguilas went on to rout Atletico de San Luis 2-1. / Leopoldo Smith/GettyImages

America moved one giant step closer to its 14th Liga MX title and takes a 5-0 lead into Saturday’s return match at Estadio Azteca after throttling Atlético de San Luis on the road.

The top-seeded Aguilas took hold of the match early, with Diego Valdés converting a nifty drop pass from Henry Martín in minute 4.

Ten minutes later, Martín powered a header past Andrés Sánchez at the near post. The game was not a quarter-hour old and America led 2-0, taking that lead into the locker room at the break.

The Aguilas continued to slice-and-dice their way through the Atleti defense, creating multiple scoring opportunities throughout the second half. The title favorites settled for “only” three more goals, Valdés getting his second in minute 65 and Julián Quiñones added a brace before the final whistle (84’ and 90+5’).

Leal’s gamble blows up in his face

San Luis coach Gustavo Leal tweaked his starting line-up, sacrificing regular center forward Léo Bonatini for speed on the wings with John Murillo and Vitinho. 

The strategy was foiled by poor conditions – the game kicked off in a downpour and the rain rarely let up all night – and an uncharacteristically poor game from midfielders Javier Güemez and Dieter Villalpando.

The visiting Aguilas repeatedly found space through midfield – Álvaro Fidalgo and Jonathan dos Santos dominated the center of the pitch – and got the ball up to playmakers Valdés, Martín and Quiñones. Atleti goalie Andrés Sánchez was under constant pressure, especially when Fidalgo joined the rush. And that was often.

Atleti sought to attack down the flanks with overlapping runs but could not punch a hole in the America defense. On a few occasions, a move forward would produce a ball into the box which was when the lack of a center forward would be felt.

Over 90 minutes, the hosts managed just 3 shots on goal while 10 of America’s 15 shots were on target.

America extends unbeaten streak to 19

With Wednesday’s walk in the park, “Los Azulcremas” have gone 14-5-0 since losing the season opener and have outscored their opponents 45-14 in that stretch.

The first goal was a killer. Right back Miguel Layún – playing in his final season – lofted a long pass to Martín who controlled it in the box, spun to hold off pressure then dropped off to Valdés inside the half moon. The Chilean playmaker one-timed a shot that deflected off defender Unai Bilbao leaving goalie Andrés Sánchez with no chance.

Before San Luis could regain its composure, the Aguilas doubled their lead.

Team Mexico striker Martín finished off a brilliant move forward that Martín helped start. "La Bomba" held off a challenge and passed back to Valdés who sent a pass wide left to Quiñones who hesitated before flicking a lead pass into Fidalgo’s path. The Spaniard dribbled deep inside the box to left of goal before chipping a soft cross that Martín met with precision.

The game was basically over then and there, and so is the series. San Luis must beat America by 6 goals on Sunday at Estadio Azteca to prevent the Aguilas from reaching their first Liga MX Final in four years.

Scoring chart: Martín tops all postseason scorers with 4 goals in three matches while Quiñones is right behind with 3.