Christian Gimenez’s blistering shot from 25 yards left Guillermo Ochoa no chance and lifted Mexican Primera Division overall leader Cruz Azul past fellow Mexico City giant America, 1-0, in the Apertura’s premier 10th-round showdown.
Gimenez netted his sixth goal of the fall season in the 53rd minute from a poorly cleared ball from the right flank as the Cementeros (8-2-0), beating America for the first time in 17 meetings, won for the sixth time in seven games and bounced back from last week’s 2-1 upset loss at Necaxa. Cruz Azul maintains a two-point lead over Monterrey in the overall standings and a three-point edge on Santos Laguna in Group A.
America (4-3-3), coming off a 3-2 loss to Santos, failed for the fourth time to put together back-to-back victories and fell to fifth overall, five points off the pace, and into third place in Group B, a point behind Toluca and San Luis.
“It's almost like we won the championship, because it's been eight years since we have beaten America," Gimenez told reporters afterward. “This victory is important. It is a victory that we owed our supporters. … This is a game that was of the utmost importance. It was a game we were all anticipating. Luckily, we were able to win.”
It required some luck, too. America had the better chances in a thrilling, end-to-end encounter, but goalkeeper Yosgart Gutierrez made a tremendous stop on Pavel Pardo in the 13th minute, and Matias Vuoso and Vicente Sanchez failed to convert great early chances. Daniel Montenegro hit the right post in the 61st minute.
This week brings both teams another showdown, with Cruz Azul playing at Toluca and America at Monterrey on Sunday.
THE OTHER BIG ONE: Santos (7-3-0) dominated Toluca (4-2-4) in a showdown between the Primera Division’s Nos. 3 and 4 clubs, prevailing, 2-0, on Jose Maria Cardenas’ first goal of the season and Christian Benitez’s league-leading 11th.
It might have been 7-0 by halftime if not for Toluca goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera, who made four superb saves, and the right post.
Santos, which has alternated wins and losses after starting the season with four wins, three of them shutouts, kept pace with Cruz Azul and Monterrey at the top of the overall standings and built a five-point barrier on the the pack.
Group 2 leader Toluca, which won the Clausura title last spring, lost for the first time since opening day and leads San Luis on goal difference, America and Pumas UNAM by one point and Puebla by just two. Jaguares de Chiapas, just outside the playoff zone, is only three behind behind the Diablos Rojos.
PONCE STRIKES AGAIN: Sacramento-born defender Miguel Angel Ponce scored for the second straight game, tapping home to pull Guadalajara (2-2-5) even in the first half of a 2-2 draw with crosstown rival Atlas (1-7-2) in the Clasico Tapatia.
Ponce, 21, who was raised in Tijuana and played youth soccer north of the border, finished after Adolfo “Bofo” Bautista’s feed into the goalmouth bounced among three players. A similar pass from Bautista gave Chivas a share of the points when Atlas’ Nestor Vidrio, attempting to clear the ball, fired into his own net in second-half stoppage.
Guadalajara should have gone ahead in the 64th minute, but Atlas goalkeeper Pedro Hernandez parried Marco Fabian de la Mora’s penalty kick off the right post and away. Gerardo Flores gave the Zorros a 2-1 lead nine minutes later, but his celebration -- he pulled his headband down over his face, where it was revealed to be a mask, with eye holes -- drew a yellow card, his second, from referee Roberto Garcia, and Chivas played the final 15 minutes with a man advantage.
Atlas hadn’t scored more than one goal, and just five in all, in its first nine games. Guadalajara, which Wednesday faces Morelia and Saturday takes on Gallos Blancos de Queretaro, hasn’t won in a month.
DEADLY ERROR: Morelia’s nightmare continued with a 1-0 loss to Pumas UNAM, the Monarcas’ fourth successive loss (three of them by shutout) after a 3-1-1 start. How they lost was most painful.
Goalkeeper Federico Villar played a ball to defender Adrian Garcia, who quickly returned it as Pumas forward Dante Lopez applied pressure. Villar’s first touch was horrific, with the ball jumping up and Villar attempting to volley it from danger.
Lopez was quicker to the ball, knocking it out of the air and past Villar, then chasing it down and shooting into an empty net.
ETC.: Group A leader Monterrey (6-0-4), the only unbeaten team in the Apertura, beat Necaxa, 2-1, as Humberto Suazo scored his ninth goal and Aldo de Nigris his fourth. … San Luis leapt past America into second place in Group B and fifth overall as Othoniel Arce’s powerful header beat UANL Tigres. The Gladiadores have won five of their past six games. … Edgar Benitez tallied twice in Pachuca’s win at Atlante. … Puebla stopped a three-game losing streak with a 2-0 victory over Gallos Blancos as Andres Olivera and Rodrigo Salinas scored four minutes apart. … Jaguares’ unbeaten streak hit five with a scoreless draw at Estudiantes Tecos. … Former U.S. national team star Eric Wynalda (Westlake Village/Westlake HS) has been hired as president of international operations -- a position that involves scouting, marketing and sponsorship -- for third-tier club Murcielagos.
LIGA DE ASCENSO: Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente (6-0-5) is back on top of Mexico’s second tier after beating visiting Cruz Azul Hidalgo, 1-0, on Raul Enriquez’s fourth goal of the season. The Xolos have shut out eight of 11 opponents. … Lobos BUAP (6-3-2), last week’s leader, lost to 15th-place Guerreros, 1-0, on Hector Gimenez’s strike to fall three points back. … Irapuato (6-3-2) also are three points back after routing La Piedad, 4-1, with Reinaldo Navia scoring a hat trick. … Leon won its third in a row after failing to win in its first eight games, a 3-1 decision over Alacranes de Durango, which dropped from third to fifth. … Chivas USA striker Eduardo Lillingston, on loan to Indios de Ciudad Juarez, scored his fifth goal of the season in a 3-3 draw with Pumas Morelos. Joaquin Andrade’s stoppage-time goal was decisive. … Juan Manuel Cavallo scored his fifth and sixth goals in Albinegros de Orizaba’s 3-1 victory at Altamira.
AMERICANS IN ACTION: Ponce was the star attraction, with his goal and 90 minutes at left back for Guadalajara. Three more Yanks started -- Texan Marco Antonio Vidal (Pachuca), Riverside’s Sammy Ochoa (Estudiantes Tecos) and San Diego’s Joe Corona (Club Tijuana) -- and three came off the bench: World Cup selections Jose Francisco Torres and Herculez Gomez for Pachuca and Edgar Castillo for San Luis.
Past week's games (home teams listed first)
Estudiantes Tecos 0, Jaguares 0
Monterrey 2 (Suazo 13, de Nigris 27), Necaxa 1 (Quatrocchi 92+)
Santos Laguna 2 (J. Cardenas 38, C. Benitez 43), Toluca 0
San Luis 1 (O. Arce 48), UANL Tigres 0
Atlante 1 (Fano 19), Pachuca 3 (E. Benitez 46, 59, Cvitanich 91+)
Pumas UNAM 1 (D. Lopez 64), Morelia 0
Puebla 2 (A. Olivera 66, R. Salinas 70), Gallos Blancos 0
Guadalajara 2 (M. Ponce 31, og Vidrio 91+), Atlas 2 (F. Santos 25, G. Flores 73)
Cruz Azul 1 (C. Gimenez 53), America 0
Group 1: Monterrey 22 points, Santos 21, UANL Tigres 12, Guadalajara 11, Necaxa 10, Estudiantes Tecos 8
Group 2: Toluca 16 points, San Luis 16, America 15, Pachuca 12, Atlante 8, Atlas 5
Group 3: Cruz Azul 24 points, Pumas UNAM 15, Puebla 14, Jaguares 13, Gallos Blancos 11, Morelia 10
Overall (top 8): 1. Cruz Azul 24 (+13 goal difference), 2. Monterrey 22 (+9), 3. Santos 21 (+11), 4. Toluca 16 (+2), 5. San Luis 16 (+1), 6. America 15 (+2), 7. Pumas UNAM 15 (-), 8. Puebla 14 (-3). Playoffs: If season ended now, the top eight would qualify
Relegation percentage: 1. Necaxa (10 games/10 points) 1.0000; 2. Gallos Blancos (44/50) 1.1364; 3. Jaguares and Atlas (78/90) 1.1538; 5. Atlante (78/91) 1.1667
This week's games (all times Pacific)
Morelia at Guadalajara, 7 p.m.
Jaguares at Estudiantes Tecos, 6:10 p.m.
America at Cruz Azul, 3 p.m.
Necaxa at Monterrey, 3 p.m.
Toluca at Santos Laguna, 5 p.m.
UANL Tigres at San Luis, 6:45 p.m.
Pachuca at Atlante, 7 p.m.
Morelia at Pumas UNAM, 10 a.m.
Gallos Blancos at Puebla, 10 a.m.
Atlas at Guadalajara, 2:30 p.m.
Schedule subject to change
1. Christian Benitez (Santos) 11
2. Humberto Suazo (Monterrey) 9
3. Itamar Batista (UANL Tigres) 6
Edgar Benitez (Pachuca) 6
Johan Fano (Atlante) 6
Christian Gimenez (Cruz Azul) 6
Carlos Ochoa (Jaguares) 6
Javier Orozco (Cruz Azul) 6
Matias Vuoso (America) 6
10. Sergio Blanco (Gallos Blancos) 5
Past week's results (home teams listed first)
CONCACAF Champions League: Cruz Azul 2 (E. Villa 1, A. Cortes pen. 47), Arabe Unido (Panama) 0
CONCACAF Champions League: Saprissa (Costa Rica) 2 (og Meza 16, Mena 65), Monterrey 2 (L. Rodriguez 5, Carreño 31)
CONCACAF Champions League: Puerto Rico Islanders (Puerto Rico) 3 (Foley 54, Horst 70, 91+), Toluca 2 (Mancilla 10, 23)
CONCACAF Champions League: Santos Laguna 5 (J. Reyes 4, F. Torres 14, C. Quintero 60, J. Cardenas 67, R. Figueroa 79), Joe Public (Trinidad & Tobago) 1 (Baptiste 32)
LIGA DE ASCENSO
Past week's results (home teams listed first)
Altamira 1 (Collazo 82), Albinegros de Orizaba 3 (Cavallo 13, 93+, Olsina 24)
Leones Negros 2 (Islas 26, Zepeda 82), Correcaminos 1 (Arredondo 16)
Indios de Ciudad Juarez 3 (J. Echevarria 63, Lillingston 87, J. Andrade 93+), Pumas Morelos 3 (F. Morales 41, A. Luna 66, D. Garay 84)
Veracruz 3 (J. Ruiz 10, Maz 35, M. Romero 74), Altante Neza 0
Dorados de Sinaloa 2 (H. Velazquez 42, Lucas Silva 84), Merida 0
Leon 3 (Bonells 29, A. Corona 49, B. Perez 76), Alacranes 1 (I. Rey 94+)
Club Tijuana XC 1 (R. Enriquez 75), Cruz Azul Hidalgo 0
La Piedad 1 (Murguia 66), Irapuato 4 (O. Gonzalez 1, R. Navia 25, 48, 74)
Guerreros FC 1 (H. Gimenez 32), Lobos BUAP 0
Standings: 1. Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente 23, 2. Lobos BUAP 20, 3. Veracruz 20, 4. Irapuato 20, 5. Alacranes de Durango 18, 6. Pumas Morelos 18, 7. Albinegros de Orizaba 17, 8. Indios de Ciudad Juarez 16, 9. Dorados de Sinaloa 16, 10. Altamira 13, 11. La Piedad 13, 12. Cruz Azul Hidalgo 12, 13. Leon 11, 14. U de G Leones Negros 11, 15. Guerreros FC 11, 16. UAT Correcaminos 10, 17. Atlante Neza 7, 18. Merida FC 7
This week's games (all times Pacific)
Guerreros at Correcaminos, 6:30 p.m.
Club Tijuana at Pumas Morelos, 2 p.m.
Leon at Albinegros de Orizaba, 2 p.m.
Dorados de Sinaloa at Alacranes de Durango, 5 p.m.
Indios de Ciudad Juarez at Irapuato, 5 p.m.
Veracruz at Merida, 5 p.m.
Altamira at Lobos BUAP, 10 a.m.
La Piedad at Atlante Neza, 10 a.m.
Leones Negros at Cruz Azul Hidalgo, 10 a.m.
Schedule subject (and likely) to change