Pumas suffered but were able to get a 2-1 win over Leon at home in a wild match. Leon might have deserved better, after outplaying Pumas for stretches before getting a red card and being down to 10 players. This lasted until a controversial red card against Pumas evened the match, and it almost went to nine players if not for a great act of fair play. Pumas will now travel to Costa Rica to start their CONCACAF Champions League campaign with a match against Saprissa before returning to Mexico and facing champions Atlas in Guadalajara next Sunday. Leon will also start their CONCACAF campaign by traveling to Guatemala to face Guastotoya before returning home to face Chivas.
The first half started with Pumas coming out with Juan Ignacio Dinenno on the bench after the three forward line failed to deliver in the last match against Tijuana. Meanwhile, Leon came up with a serious disadvantage in missing two key players in William Tesillo and Angel Mena. It wouldn’t take long for Leon to make an impact when off a corner kick, Andres Mosquera headed the ball into the path of Jean Meneses, who hit a volley into the post. Replays showed that had it gone in he would have been called offside, but it was still a dangerous chance. Leon had surprised Pumas and kept at it, while Pumas slowly tried to gain possession. Then after a bad play from Sebastian Saucedo ended up gifting the ball to Leon, it created a great counter attack for Leon. Victor Davila got off a pass that with great left footed shot from Santiago Colombatto, sending the ball past Pumas’ goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera for the 1-0 lead. Leon had taken a well deserved lead after a bad mistake from Pumas. Pumas then answered quickly with a great combination play when Saucedo made a great pass to Jose Rogerio, who then got into the area and got a good right footed shot past Leon’s goalkeeper Rodolfo Cota to get the 1-1 tie. In the first real chance for Pumas, they made Leon pay and get right back into it. Leon responded with a long range shot from Meneses that forced Talavera to make a good save. On the ensuing corner kick, Federico Martinez tried to score an olimpico goal from the corner, and almost got it if not for a great save off the line from Talavera. Alan Mozo then made a great pass into the area for Diogo de Oliveira, but his shot went well wide. After getting into the area, Martinez got a low shot that forced Talavera to make another good save. Leon had the better chances, but against the run of play and in injury time of the half, Pumas struck again. Pumas got a free kick from just outside of the area. Leonel Lopez took it and got a great cross that found Arturo Ortiz, who got off a great header past Cota for the 2-1 lead. Pumas took the lead in the last minute and went to half time with a huge boost after enormous luck.
The second half started with Pumas hoping to improve while Leon hoped to get a win or a tie and to have a better result for their effort. Pumas had a great chance when a cross into the area was lowered by Rogerio but he did a bad job of controlling the ball and it was cleared off by Leon’s defense. Then after a foul on Favio Alvarez by Federico Martinez, the referee was called to VAR and deemed it to be red card offense against Martinez, leaving Leon with 10 players. Replays showed it was harsh, but slowing down on replays might have not given how fast it was and maybe a yellow card could have been fair. Pumas now needed to take advantage of the advantage, and they went on the offensive. Pumas had a good chance when after a run, Alvarez got the ball in the area but his shot went straight to Cota. Pumas had another great chance when Mozo made a run and crossed it into the area past Cota but the ball failed to reach Rogerio and instead bounced off of Mosquera before going wide, inches from being an own goal into the empty net. Pumas subbed out Sebastian Saucedo and Jose Rogerio for Washington Corozo and Juan Ignacio Dinenno, while Leon subbed out Jose Ramirez for Elias Hernandez. After a bad mistake by Pumas in giving the ball away, Leon had a good counter but Ortiz made an incredible play to steal the ball off Hernandez’s feet as he entered the area. It would have been wide open had he gotten past the Pumas’ defender. A cross into the area was then headed by Dinenno but Cota easily saved it. Leon subbed out Jean Meneses and Santiago Colombatto for Omar Fernandez and Santiago Ormeño. Although Pumas had an advantage, they had gained more possession but were rarely threatening and had for the most part just evened things out instead of the expected domination of having 11 players on the field to Leon’s 10. Mozo lost a ball and then made a slide tackle that brought down Ivan Rodriguez, which then ref judged to have been a red card. Replays had showed that had failed to make strong contact with Leon’s player but incredibly VAR didn’t change the play or force the referee to go look at it. The incredibly unfair red card decision was maintained and Pumas went down to 10 players too. Pumas subbed out Favio Alvarez for Ricardo Galindo while Leon subbed out Ivan Rodriguez for Luis Montes. Leon tried to take advantage of having the same number of players on the field and went on offense. After a great play, a cross into the area had Ormeño tried a bicycle kick that went just wide after the great chance. Then in the most notable play of the match, the referee judged that Washington Corozo had elbowed Luis Montes and gave him a red card. Montes immediately told the referee that he hadn’t been elbowed (and replays showed that he was right), and the referee reversed the decision and gave a yellow instead. It was an incredible showing of fair play by Montes, especially in Mexico where the league doesn’t normally have those kinds of acts, more so when the team is trailing as Leon was. In the final minutes, a cross into the area by Mosquera found Davila, who jumped over everybody but his header hit the post. It was their best chance but also the last chance as Pumas held on in a wild match to get their third win of the season.
It wasn’t the best win for Pumas, but they were able to grab three very important points. Pumas came from two losses and would have preferred to get a win in a game where they might not have deserved that the opposite, something that happened in their last home game against Tigres, when they were the better side but they lost. Leon would rue misses and going down to 10 players, but overall they played well and deserved more. Still the thing that might be most remembered was the play where Montes told the referee to not give a red card. With the team trailing, Montes did something that is not only uncommon in Mexico but in football itself worldwide. There is no question it could be a candidate for any fair play award, and something that is historic in Liga MX. Pumas will need to improve because the result hides a lackluster performance, especially at time when they could have taken advantage of having an extra player. Leon is suffering from the fact they don’t have a good center forward, but overall they are playing well and if they fix that, they should be a candidate to get back to the Liga MX Final as they did last season.