Controversial call allows América to claim back-to-back championships

Late Henry Martín penalty is enough to earn Aguilas 15th Liga MX title
Israel Reyes tumbled to the ground after this Rodolfo Rotondi tackle attempt, drawing the penalty that would determine the Liga MX final in favor of América
Israel Reyes tumbled to the ground after this Rodolfo Rotondi tackle attempt, drawing the penalty that would determine the Liga MX final in favor of América / Hector Vivas/GettyImages

América successfully defended its Liga MX title but got a big helping hand from ref Marco Antonio Ortiz whose controversial penalty call resulted in the only goal of the match.

Ortiz stood by his call after a lengthy VAR review, and Aguilas skipper Henry Martín thumped the spot kick into the net in minute 78.

América goalie Luis Malagón then preserved the advantage, racing across the face of goal to come up with a diving save of a Rodrigo Huescas shot 1 minute into stoppage time. 

With the 1-0 victory (2-1 aggregate) over crosstown rivals Cruz Azul, “Los Azulcremas” claimed their 15th Liga MX championship, extending their own league record.

Cementeros denied twice in first half

Malagón did not only play the hero late in the match, the future El Tri netminder stood tall in the first half, too.

In minute 15, Uriel Antuna banged a header that seemed ticketed for the back of the net, but América’s goalie palmed the shot away. 

Malagón still had his cape on 7 minutes later when he swatted aside an Ángel Sepúlveda header then got some help as Ramón Juárez blocked Anton’s follow shot.

In minute 40, Cementeros captain Ignacio Rivero missed a golden opportunity. Charlie Rodríguez released Antuna down the right side, Antuna crossed to Sepúlveda who controlled, spun and dropped a nifty pass to the trailing Rivero who was unmarked. Unfortunately, Rivero fired his shot into Row 45.

Early in the second half, Cruz Azul saw a goal annulled due to offside, and that’s the closest the Cementeros came to scoring until Huescas’ late chance.

The controversy occurred in minute 71. Alex Zendejas stripped Rodolfo Rotondi to the left of the Cruz Azul goal. Zendejas carried to the end line, then dropped a pass into the path of Israel Reyes who poked the ball forward as Rotondi came sliding in.

As Reyes tumbled to the ground, ref Ortiz pointed to the spot. However, replay seemed to indicate that Reyes dragged his trailing foot into the sliding Rotondi whose slide did not make contact. It also appeared that the Argentine wingback might have gotten a piece of the ball, but Ortiz’s review of the video did not sway his initial judgment.

Former ref Marco Antonio Rodríguez expressed his disagreement on social media, as did several of the game announcers.

The circumstances of América's victory will only fuel conspiracy rumors for fans of all other Liga MX teams who constantly complain about favoritism toward the Televisa-owned team.

To their credit, Cruz Azul put the controversy behind them and chased the equalizer the rest of the way. And they nearly came up with it.

A looping pass to the far post was poked free and came back to the near post to Huescas who surely thought he had an open net. But Malagón raced back across the goal and made a lunging save to preserve the lead.

Huescas and Cementeros Nation will lament the missed chance especially since it seemed like the Cruz Azul youngster had time to get off a better shot. Anything a bit higher would have been in the back of the net, but Huescas hurried it and didn't get enough on it.

Liga MX bridesmaid, and other notes

América wasn't alone in extending a Liga MX record (their 15 league titles is three better than runners-up in the all-time trophy chase, Guadalajara).

Cruz Azul has now lost 12 finals, the most in Liga MX history. That's five more than UNAM has lost and six more than América, Toluca and Tigres.


With his goal in the final, Henry Martín tied the legendary Enrique Borja as the fifth leding scorer in América history. "La Bomba" now has 104 goals since joining the Aguilas seven years ago. Next in the list is Luis Roberto Alves "Zague" who scored 109 goals while playing for "Los Azulcremas."