Erick Sánchez brace helps Pachuca hand América first loss of season

Rampant Cruz Azul knock Tigres from ranks of the unbeaten; Atleti-Tijuana play to a draw

Erick Sánchez gestures to the stands after scoring for Pachuca against América. The Tuzos defeated the defending Liga MX champs 2-1.
Erick Sánchez gestures to the stands after scoring for Pachuca against América. The Tuzos defeated the defending Liga MX champs 2-1. / Jam Media/GettyImages
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Liga MX champs fall to upstart Tuzos

Erick Sánchez scored twice to lead Pachuca to a 2-1 win over América, handing the defending Liga MX champs their first regular season loss in 23 matches.

The Tuzos had the better of the first half but at times seemed to be playing against 12 men as ref Víctor Cáceres made several calls that favored the visiting Aguilas. 

The most egregious was when the official swallowed his whistle after Cristian Calderón  shoved Miguel Rodríguez after the Pachuca youngster had beaten the América fullback off the dribble and raced into the box.

Minutes later, Cáceres called a foul against the Tuzos for a similar push in the back. Pachuca’s Gustavo Cabral earned a yellow card for pointing out the double standards to the referee.

The game had a distinct playoff feel throughout the first half which ended scoreless. And then the intensity picked up after the break.

The Tuzos were on their front foot early in the second half, but América remained disciplined at the back. The Aguilas boast the stingiest defense in Liga MX; they'd conceded just one goal coming into the match and they repeatedly demonstrated why they are tough to score against. Until they didn’t.

In minute 56, Pachuca winger Miguel Rodríguez was given space deep on the right side and he zipped a low cross that found Erick Sánchez at the far post. Sánchez split a pair of defenders and thumped the ball into the back of the net.

The side judge raised his flag for offside but VAR eventually overruled the call and the Tuzos were up 1-0.

Ten minutes later, América equalized when Brian Rodríguez eluded his marker and fired a centering pass into the goal mouth where a lunging Julián Quiñones got a toe on it and it redirected the ball past a helpless Carlos Moreno.

For the next 10 minutes, “Los AzulCremas” had the Tuzos on their heels but rarely got a good look at goal. 

Then Kevin Álvarez – a former Pachuca player – made a bad pass in midfield that led to a fast break. Salomón Rondón took the steal and immediately sent Oussama Idrissi down the left flank. At the edge of the box, Idrissi feinted inside then burst past Álvarez to the touch line before cutting back a pass to Sánchez who deposited the ball past Luis Malagón for the 2-1 lead.

Over the next 23 minutes (there was 8 minutes of added time), América pressed for the equalizer but were unable to find it.

The win momentarily lifted the Tuzos atop the Liga MX table with 15 points, while the Aguilas slipped to 4th place with 14 points. 

Cruz Azul 1, Tigres 0

Two hours after Pachuca had leap-frogged six teams into first place, the Cementeros climbed over the Tuzos to claim Liga MX bragging rights.

Cruz Azul put on an impressive display in winning its fifth consecutive game and extending its unbeaten streak to six.

The only score came on an own-goal in minute 83 but “La Máquina Azul” ran Tigres ragged the entire match. 

The Cementeros attacked and pressed aggressively, in constant motion, always looking to move forward quickly. They tested Tigres with long balls, connected on line-breaking passes and overlapping runs on the flanks. If not for Nahuel Guzmán between the pipes, this might have been a rout.

Finally, with 7 minutes remaining regulation, defender Gonzalo Piovi fired a 60-meter diagonal pass right onto the foot of Uriel Antuna who bobbled the pass. Antuna chased down the ball and first-timed a low cross into the crease where Ignacio Rivero was poised to knock it into the net but Diego Reyes slid onto the ball and poked it past Guzmán into his own net.

By now, Tigres’ frustration was increasing – they earned three yellow cards in the five minutes preceding the goal – and it boiled over in stoppage time. Eduardo Tercero head-butted Carlos Rodríguez and a bench-clearing melee broke out.

Finally, Cruz Azul closed out the win, handing last season’s finalists their first loss of the season. As for "La Máquina," they have already matched their win total from last season – 5 – when they finished in 16th place.

There are now only two unbeaten teams in Liga MX – Necaxa and Monterrey.

Elsewhere in Liga MX

All Liga MX games have observed a minute of silence before kickoff in honor of FC Juárez player Diego “El Puma” Chávez who died in a car crash on Tuesday night. The FC Juárez vs Puebla match was postponed and has not been rescheduled.

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In San Luis Potosí, Atlético de San Luis and Tijuana played a 3-3 thriller that featured end-to-end action and several golazos. The hosts had a chance to win but Unai Bilbao sent a penalty kick over the crossbar on the final play of the match.

The draw extends Atleti’s winless streak to five games while Tijuana remains one of three Liga Mx teams without a victory.