America got a solid 3-1 win over Santos Laguna to climb to the top of the leader board. America got a quick lead and looked like they were set to crush, but a controversial decision got Santos back into the game. It wasn’t enough however, and America look like a tough team and will have a boost as they return to their home stadium of Estadio Azteca in their next home game. Santos meanwhile continue to have a weak start to the tournament and will need to improve in their next game at home against last placed Atlas.
The game began as America played their final home game in the Estadio Olimpico Universitario. The hosts seemed to be surprised by Santos being the most offensive side in the early minutes of the game. Yet after a couple of minutes, America started to cut into possession and made Santos pay in their first opportunity. A great pass by Sebastian Cordova found Roger Martinez in the area, and he was able to get his right footed shot past Santos’ keeper Carlos Acevedo for the 1-0 lead. Santos tried to answer back with a header by Diego Valdes that went wide, in a chance he should’ve put away. America got another chance when Federico Viñas made a great play in the area, but his left footed shot was brilliantly saved by Acevedo. Minutes later, Acevedo would make a big mistake and give America another goal. After being pressured by Viñas, Acevedo gave away the ball to Roger Martinez, who then proceeded to cross the ball to a wide open Leonardo Suarez, who headed the ball past Acevedo for the 2-0 lead. Although Acevedo arrived to the ball, he failed to stop it. Santos went into full disarray and America would make them pay minutes later. Leo Suarez got a ball and made a great cross that found Viñas in the area, who headed it past Acevedo for the 3-0. America kept pressuring and Santos couldn’t get back into the game after the quick goals. After a couple of attacks from Santos that never came close to threatening, the halftime whistle blew and America looked like they had settled the game.
The second half started with Santos subbing out Edgar Games and Betsiel Hernandez for Jonathan Diaz and Jose Van Rankin as they began their comeback attempt. They seemed to be on the up as they were offensive in the first minutes of the half and came close with a shot from Valdes that just went wide. America answered back with a shot by Suarez that forced Acevedo to make a save. It was Suarez’s last opportunity as he was subbed out minutes later for Henry Martin while Santos answered by subbing out Eduardo Aguirre for youngster Jordan Carrillo. A scary incident happened when Julio Furch clashed his head with America’s Sebastian Caceres, with the latter being the most injured. He recovered quickly, but the ref went to the VAR and gave Santos a Penalty Kick for the play, in what was a controversial decision. Fernando Gorriaran took the PK and converted it with a right footed shot for the 3-1. Almost immediately, America made 2 substitutions with Luis Reyes and Richard Sanchez getting subbed out for Jesus Escoboza and Emilio Sanchez. Later, another controversial play happened when Valdes was brought down in the area but the referee said the foul had occurred just outside the area. Valdes took the free kick and hit the post, bouncing off keeper Guillermo Ochoa’s head off for a corner kick. Santos would threaten again when a free kick cross was just missed by Hugo Rodriguez from heading it in. A minute later they wasted a great chance when Van Rankin made a great play in the area but instead of shooting it in, he attempted a pass to Furch but failed miserably and America was able to clear the errant pass. Furch would come close with a shot that just went wide as Santos had America cornered. Later, it was Jonathan Diaz who twice made great plays but passing instead of shooting allowed America’s defense to clear the ball both times. Valdes had another great chance but his shot was blocked by a sliding Bruno Valdez. America knew they were in trouble and subbed out Sebastian Cordova for Antonio Lopez and Roger Martinez for Fernando Gonzalez. America had time to get another chance when Viñas got off a shot that was saved by Acevedo. The final minutes were managed well by America and they got the win as Santos fought bravely in the second half but couldn’t dig themselves out of the hole.
After a disappointing performance in the preseason Copa GNP por Mexico in which America lost against rivals Cruz Azul and Chivas, many fans revolted against Coach Miguel Herrera. However, four games in, America is in first place and has looked as the better team in all games played so far. Their match against Necaxa was by far the weaker performance, but they bounced back to get a solid win against Santos. They will visit Queretaro, who have one of the weakest squads in Liga MX but are coming off a win against one of the title contenders in Cruz Azul. Santos meanwhile, have under performed and besides a win against Chivas, they only have a draw against Monterrey. It looked like they were going to get crushed by America but the PK decision gave them a boost and Santos looked a lot better. Only time will tell if it’s a change of direction or if they took advantage of America stepping off the pedal. They will have a key matchup when they face an Atlas team at home that is in last place and will probably have the debut of new coach Diego Cocca.