Atlas and Veracruz, two of the worst teams in Liga MX, played one of the most entertaining game of the season, a 4-3 goal fest that will go down in Liga MX history as the game where the VAR (Video Assistant Referee) made its debut. Referee Adonai Escobedo was quick to use the new tool when an early fall in the box turned out to be a penalty kick for Atlas. It would be the first of three penalties to be called, as well as a red card, in a crazy game with lots of offensive play and incidents galore. The lead would change four times, and even when Veracruz went down a man, it continued to be a game that could have finish for either team. In the final minutes of play, Omar Gonzalez headed it in for the final score of 4-3, giving Atlas their second win of the season.
While most people expected this game between Atlas and Veracruz to be a bad return to the league after the international break, Atlas and Veracruz conspired to surprise everybody. Most of the attention of the game was in the implementation for the first time of the VAR system in Liga MX. Still, the game started early with Veracruz taking the lead 3 minutes in. Diego Chavez made a great run and left the ball for Christian Menendez, who scored.
A couple of minutes later, history was made after Juan Pablo Vigon clashed with Luis Caicedo. While it was first called a corner kick, referee Adonai Escobedo went to the VAR and changed it to a penalty. Jefferson Duque took the first penalty kick from a VAR call and proceeded to have it stopped by goalkeeper Pedro Gallese.
In the ensuing corner kick, Escobedo once again called a penalty kick, but this time didn’t go to VAR. Andres Andrade converted to level the score.
Moments later, on the other end, Escobedo once again went to VAR to check a play in the area, and after seeing that Leiton Jimenez handled the ball, called a second VAR penalty kick. Bryan Carrasco then proceeded score the first VAR penalty and give Vercruz the lead again.
In the final minutes of the first half, Duque was able to make amends for his penalty miss and tied the game with a header, putting the score at 2-2 at the break.
The second half had more of the same action. Arturo Paganoni of Veracruz got his second yellow card to put Veracruz down a man, and almost immediately, Atlas found Juan Pablo Vigon wide open to make a great header and put the game 3-2.
It looked like Atlas was going to get the win and even had the luxury of wasting some key chances, but Veracruz was able to tie the game when a throw in was headed by Caicedo to Menendez ,who was able to head it past the Atlas keeper for the 3-3 tie.
Atlas then desperately tried to take advantage of being up a man but weren’t creating dangerous chances. But just when it looked like the game was coming to an end, Gallese and the Veracruz defense made a mess of a ball that allowed Omar Gonzalez to head it in for the 4-3.
Veracruz then tried for the equalizer and Atlas ended 4-3 winners.
It will be tough for any game in the weekend to be a more entertaining spectacle than what these two teams did in Guadalajara. For the league, it is good news that the first VAR plays were successful, although Veracruz owner Fidel Kuri already protested that neither of the two penalty kicks given to Atlas were correct (despite that only one was given through VAR). That said, to more neutral eyes, it was a success, and only time will tell if people take to it in a very traditional space like football in Mexico.