Pumas claim Mexico City bragging rights with win in 'Clásico Capitalino'

UNAM edges first-place América to close in on berth in Liga MX Play-In Tournament
Leo Suárez (center) is mobbed by teammates after his goal put UNAM ahead of América, helping the Pumas defeat the defending Liga MX champs in a Matchday 16 contest.
Leo Suárez (center) is mobbed by teammates after his goal put UNAM ahead of América, helping the Pumas defeat the defending Liga MX champs in a Matchday 16 contest. / Manuel Velasquez/GettyImages

Leo Suárez had a goal and an assist against his former team, helping UNAM move a giant step closer toward securing a playoff spot. 

The Pumas stunned the defending Liga MX champs 2-1 and moved within 1 point of 8th-place Necaxa with 26 points. 

“Los felinos” could finish the Clausura 2024 as high as fifth if results fall their way next weekend.

UNAM had not defeated América in a regular-season match since Feb. 17, 2019, and Saturday night’s upset should give the Pumas confidence in its playoff potential.

Liga MX champs draw first blood

América captain Henry Martín opened the scoring in the 124th regular-season “Clásico Capitalino” by converting a penalty kick in minute 20.

“La Bomba” now has 100 goals wearing an América shirt, passing the legendary Carlos Reinoso at No. 7 on the Aguilas’ all-time scoring list. With the goal, Martín matched Julián Quiñones for the team lead this season; both with 6.

About 20 minutes later, UNAM equalized from a free kick out on the left flank.

Ulises Rivas beat Diego Valdés to the front side and the Pumas midfielder redirected Suárez’s low centering pass past Luis Malagón and inside the far post

Suárez continued to torment his former team, finally putting the Pumas ahead at the hour mark, gathering in a loose ball at the top of the box and slotting home just inside the near post.

América – the stingiest defense in Liga MX – hadn’t given up two goals in a game since a 2-2 draw against Mazatlán FC on Feb. 21

It also marked the fourth straight game that the Aguilas have conceded a goal, their longest streak of the season. In fact, before this streak, América had given up goals in only four of its first 12 contests.

UNAM held on down the stretch, nipping at every América player that stepped into their vicinity. The pesky defense allowed the Pumas to get under the Aguilas' skin, drawing several silly frustration fouls in the second half that primarily served to prevent América’s offense from getting into rhythm.

Early in stoppage time, Brian Rodríguez picked up a senseless red card, infuriating Martín. 

After getting bumped to the floor by César Huerta, Rodríguez retaliated by kicking the Pumas winger in the ankle. Ref Fernando Guerrero saw it and didn’t hesitate to send the América sub to the showers.

Martín, the Aguilas skipper, angrily remonstrated the frustrated Rodríguez, jabbing at him with his finger as Igor Lichnovsky struggled to separate the pair and escort Rodríguez to the locker room. 

This result complicates matters for 10th-place Querétaro (23 points, +1 differential) and 11th-place León (23 points, —2 differential). UNAM improved its goal differential to +5 with Saturday's win.

The Gallos Blancos now not only have to defeat UNAM at home in the season finale, they might have to do so by multiple goals to make up the differential. Either that or they have to hope León loses at FC Juárez next weekend.


For their part, the Esmeraldas might have to win by a comfortable margin if Querétaro can pull off the upset and knock off the Pumas. That combination of results would see all three teams tied at 26 points and looking to tiebreakers to determine the Nos. 9 and 10 seeds in the Play-In Tournament.