The penultimate matchday of the Liga MX season kicked off with a bang Friday night as León and Puebla combined for 9 goals, two of which were scored in second-half stoppage time.
Nicolás Larcamón led León into Estadio Cuauhtémoc needing a win to improve the club’s chances of landing a spot in the Liga MX playoffs. Despite season-long offensive struggles, the Esmeraldas scored four splendid goals … but that would not be enough on this night.
Larcamón’s former team showed him they have not forgotten the lessons he taught and the Camoteros put on a tremendous fight-back, scoring four second-half goals to boost the team’s chances of claiming a spot in the Play-In Tournament.
Guillermo Martínez led the comeback with a hat trick – only the second of the Liga MX season (Cruz Azul’s Ángel Sepúlveda has the other) – and sub Miguel Sansores blasted home the game-winner in minute 90+3, finishing off a length-of-the-field breakaway.
León has legitimate complaints
Puebla had a goal disallowed just 5 minutes in when Martínez was found to be offside upon VAR review. Video evidence revealed that the Puebla front man was clearly offside and the fact that the on-field officials missed it was an omen of things to come.
Moments later, the Esmeraldas had claimed the lead when Federico Viñas scored off a thrown in. The visitors’ celebration was short-lived as Martínez equalized 9 minutes later. However, VAR should have annulled this goal as well because Nico López was dispossessed after a blatant jersey tug by a Puebla defender.
Still, “La Fiera” had to feel good about itself heading into the locker rooms at the half after scoring twice in quick succession. López put León ahead 2-1 by finishing off a brilliant rush forward off a free kick then Viñas scored a minute-and-a-half later to extend the lead.
Martínez narrowed the deficit in minute 51 then Puebla skipper Diego De Buen knotted the score with a clever flicked header off a free kick. Martínez appeared to culminate the Camoteros’ fight-back, taking advantage of a poor close-out by goalie Rodolfo Cota.
A minute into stoppage time, Omar Fernández looked to have rescued a point for the Esmeraldas, splitting three defenders to collect a return pass from Angel Moreno and poke home the equalizer. But this celebration, too, was short-lived.
However, video replay suggested Sansores broke free for his game-winner by knocking a León defender off-balance with a shoulder grab. Neither the referee nor the VAR official made the call and Puebla showed Larcamón they continued to embrace the “Never give up” mantra that he had instilled in them during his four seasons in charge there.
Saturday’s Liga MX calendar
Matchday 16 continues with a quadruple-header, all of which have playoff implications.
Second-place Tigres (28 points) host sixth-place Atlético de San Luis (22 points) to open the day’s play. “Los felinos” are coming off a shock loss at Tijuana while the Tuneros – the surprise team of the Liga MX season – are desperate to halt a three-game slump that has seen them tumble three spots in the table.
Tijuana – fifth on the Liga MX table with 23 points – then pays a visit to league leading América. The Xolos and coach Miguel Herrera will try to put an end to the Aguilas’ 14-game unbeaten streak.
América (36 points) has already clinched the No. 1 seed but are chasing the all-time Liga MX record for points in a 17-game season. If the Aguilas win both of their remaining games they will surpass the 41 points recorded by León in the Clausura 2019 campaign.
With a game in hand, third-place Monterrey (26 points) could claim the No. 2 seed in the Liga MX playoffs by wining out. They’ll have to start by winning at Pachuca (19 points) on Saturday night.
Closing out the night’s activities, Cruz Azul (17 points) face a must-win game at Guadalajara (24 points). The Cementeros have surged from the bottom of the Liga MX table into playoff contention but can’t afford to drop any points.
The Chivas, for their part, are in position to secure a first-round bye but will be without striker Ricardo Marín who saw a red card in the club’s last game.
Sunday features four more Liga MX contests: Atlas (16 points) at UNAM (22); Mazatlán FC (19) at Necaxa (11); Toluca (21) at Santos Laguna (17); and, Querétaro (15) at FC Juárez (18).