Stalemate! Cruz Azul and América battle to 1-1 draw in first leg of final

Defending Liga MX champs survive early error, stage set for showdown at Estadio Azteca
Cruz Azul and America played to a 1-1 draw in the first leg of the Liga MX final on Thursday night. The return match will take place on Sunday at Estadio Azteca.
Cruz Azul and America played to a 1-1 draw in the first leg of the Liga MX final on Thursday night. The return match will take place on Sunday at Estadio Azteca. / Manuel Velasquez/GettyImages

Another thrilling 'Clásico Joven' in Liga MX final

Cruz Azul and defending champion América head to Estadio Azteca on Sunday with everything to play for after a 1-1 tie in the first leg of the Liga MX final, the fifth time these Mexico City rivals have met to determine the league champion.

After a dominating first-half performance, the second-seeded Cementeros stagnated in the second half but came up with some great saves to salvage the draw.

The game at Estadio Azul was a tale of two halves with “La Máquina Azul” controlling possession (69%) and creating chances in the first half, forcing two saves from Luis Malagón. 

But a single defensive lapse by the Cementeros saw the teams head to their locker rooms at the break all even at 1-1.

Uriel Antuna converted a penalty kick in minutę 9 after drawing a foul from Malagón. The Cruz Azul forward raced into the box in pursuit of a terrible back-pass by Jonathan dos Santos and was clipped by Malagón after swiping the ball.

Seven minutes later, Aguilas captain Henry Martín spun past an overaggressive Carlos Salcedo to chase a throw-in then slipped a smart pass through the 6-year box where Julián Quiñones arrived unmolested to smack home the equalizer.

Tables turn after the break

The top-seeded Aguilas started the second half on the front foot.

An Israel Reyes pass from the right wing found Martín free to the right of goal and the skipper's one-timer forced a diving save from Kevin Mier. The rebound fell to Quiñones on the left side and his low shot was stopped on the line by defender Willer Ditta who went to his knees to block the ball with his midsection.

Shortly thereafter, Ditta was stripped inside his own box by Quiñones who fed Diego Valdés in the high slot, but Gonzalo Piovi raced over to deflect the shot off Valdés' foot.

Ditta made up for his mistake in minute 66 after another picture-perfect feed by Reyes. The El Tri defender dumped a pass behind the Cruz Azul defense as Quiñones raced after the ball. The América winger flicked the ball past Mier but Ditta chased it down and cleared it about a meter from the line.

Although the Cementeros still enjoyed the bulk of possession (ending the game at 64%), they failed to generate scoring opportunities in the face of heightened pressing from the Aguilas.

Meanwhile, América was constructing plays effectively, stringing passes together and buzzing around the Cruz Azul box, forcing the Cementeros to expend energy on the defensive end.

The final 20 minutes was a bit ragged as both teams started to wilt in the heat and both coaches began to substitute in fresh legs.

The whistle sounded after 8 minutes of stoppage time with nothing settled.


The Clausura 2024 champion will be decided on Sunday night at "El Coloso de Santa Úrsula" where América is undefeated this season (5-2-0 in the regular season, 1-1-0 in the playoffs).