Clausura 2024: Atleti tames Pumas, Necaxa dumps Puebla to share first place

Bonatini, Salles-Lamonge and Galdames score in convincing triumph over UNAM

Atlético de San Luis players embrace Leo Bonatini (#9) after he scored the opener in the team's 3-1 victory over UNAM. The win lifted Atleti into first place in the Liga MX standings.
Atlético de San Luis players embrace Leo Bonatini (#9) after he scored the opener in the team's 3-1 victory over UNAM. The win lifted Atleti into first place in the Liga MX standings. / Jam Media/GettyImages
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Unlikely leaders atop Liga MX table

A crisp Atlético de San Luis made clear it aspires to another deep playoff run this season, brushing aside UNAM, another Apertura 2023 semifinalist. The 3-1 win lifts San Luis into first place with 6 points, besting Necaxa – also a winner Friday night – on goal difference (+3 to +2).

Atleti got on the scoreboard in minute 9 with a nifty passing sequence that culminated with Vitinho’s spot-on lead pass for an overlapping Ricardo Chávez to one-time a cross to Leo Bonatini on the back side. Bonatini chested Chávez’s perfect pass into the net and the Estadio Alfonso Lastras erupted in glee.

The Pumas then had to survive 5 minutes of intense pressure, fortunate the Tuneros were unable to find the net. UNAM’s Eduardo Salvio then caused the crowd to gasp, banging a shot off the left post with a lunging, right-footed volley.

The Tuneros had the better of play through the first half but were unable to extend their lead.

Quick strikes prove fatal

Nearly 20 minutes after the restart, Sébastien Salles-Lemonge sent Vitinho behind the UNAM defense, the Brazilian chased down the pass, braked to a stop, paused, and slotted a pass across the box to Salles-Lemonge who was racing alone down the left channel. The Frenchman made no mistake and Atleti led 2-0.

Pumas midfielder Ulises Rivas changed the tenor of contest in minute 70, hustling past his marker and bundling in a goal at the back post.

The Pumas kept pecking away, César Huerta testing the back line with crosses time and again, Guillermo Martínez prowling inside the box, Salvio taking off on mazy runs. Martínez flubbed a chance to equalize with 12 minutes remaining, but he contrived to ruin Huerta’s bid for an assists, skying a shot over the crossbar from 15 meters.  

Atleti put an end to the comeback effort in minute 83 with a perfectly executed fast break on the counter. Juan Manuel Sanabria fed Benjamín Galdames into the box, the 22-year-old calmly stepped inside an Alberto Aldrete slide tackle and slotted home with his trusty left boot.

UNAM came close to narrowing the deficit on a couple occasions, ending the game with eight shots on goal, but "los felinos" just weren't lucky enough on this night.

Rayos play Comeback Kids again

In another Matchday 2 contest, Necaxa survived a slipshod performance and walked out of Estadio Cuauhtémoc with all 3 points as Puebla squandered a bushel of scoring opportunities.

The host Camoteros dominated possession (59%) and had Necaxa on the back foot for long stretches of the game, but sprayed shots and turned the ball over with regularity.

“La Franja” took the lead from the penalty spot in minute 59 – Lucas Cavallini converting – and that seemed certain to be enough against a Rayos side that finished at the bottom of the Liga MX table a season ago. But that was not to be.

Twice Puebla defenders fell asleep and both times a Necaxa player found space to head home from close range (Edgar Méndez in minute 79 and Diber Cambindo in minute 83).  

The Rayos scrambled after that but managed to close out the match, completing a second straight comeback victory to open the new Liga MX season.

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“Los electricistas” are only one victory shy of their entire output during the Apertura 2023, a significant step toward avoiding the Liga MX basement again this season.