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América and León share points in chaotic second half filled with controversy

The Águilas had chances to put the game away, but it was León who scored and left the Azteca with a point.

America v Leon - Torneo Clausura 2023 Liga MX Photo by Mauricio Salas/Jam Media/Getty Images

Club América was close to winning the game Saturday night until León scored in stoppage time to even it up and leave the Estadio Azteca with a point. While the visitors are happy with the result, it’s a different story for the home team who made a comeback in the second half and could’ve put the game away, but missed their chances to do so. Club León now have a tough stretch ahead of them as they play the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals on Tuesday followed by a league game a few days later against Cruz Azul. Club América have a big task themselves as they face league leaders Monterrey at home.

The action started right away as Diego Valdes scored in the fifth minute, but the goal was disallowed as Jonathan ‘Cabecita’ Rodriguez was offside in the previous play. León saw their own goal disallowed in the 12th minute because Victor Davila was offside as well. For the remainder of the first half it was all León who took control of the game. America lost their midfield, Henry Martin was erased, and their defense was working overtime to prevent any goals. With 15 shots on goal, it was a matter of time until the visitors got their goal. That goal came in the second minute of stoppage time when Jose Alvarado headed in a cross to the far post, giving his team the lead in the Azteca.

Going into the second half, neither teams made changes immediately. Leon were the dominant team, so it made sense to not make changes, while América needed to make substitutions but decided to wait on it. Those changes were made in the 53rd minute as Jonathan Rodriguez, Jonathan Dos Santos and Leo Suarez came out and Brian Rodriguez, Richard Sanchez and Alejandro Zendejas came on. Zendejas made an immediate impact after Leo Suarez took over his role since Suarez had an incredible run while Zendejas was out with injury, but tonight Suarez was absent and Zendejas was the game changer the team needed as he assisted in a later goal. América’s first goal came 10 minutes later courtesy of Diego Valdes, and that’s where the chaos started.

Immediately after the goal, León players were calling for a handball by Israel Reyes after the ball hit him and the rebound fell to Valdes who scored. At first glance it did appear it was a handball and VAR would call the goal back. Before any of that could happen, León players surrounded referee Fernando Hernandez in protest and amidst the chaos, León player Lucas Romero ended up on the floor and upon further review, central referee Fernando Hernandez had kneed him in the groin.

This was completely unacceptable and an investigation into the incident has been opened by the league. Just like the commentators said on live television, if it was a player who committed the action, they would be vilified and suspended a handful of games. The same should be done to the referee for the aggression. Unfortunately, this was not the last incident to occur. After tensions lowered, the goal stood despite the ball appearing to hit Reyes on the chest close to his arm. For some, that should be called a handball, while for others it shouldn’t. Either way, the goal stood and América had equalized. It then took five minutes for them to take the lead after Zendejas sent in a cross that Henry Martin headed into the back of the net.

Martin was the one who started the play after stealing the ball in the midfield, and the goal was his 80th for the club during his 200th appearance. It was a few minutes after this goal that the game once again got out of control. Richard Sanchez committed a foul outside of the box on Ivan Moreno, and Sanchez went down. Moreno then went right into Sanchez’s face to taunt him and players from both teams went to protect their respective teammates, resulting in the forming of a congregationof players where Moreno was handed a yellow card. As this was happening, both head coaches Fernando Ortiz and Nicolas Larcamon got into a heated argument where Larcamon’s shirt was ripped and both coaches were handed red cards. After the game, Ortiz made a small statement to the press stating Larcamon made a comment regarding his mom and so the argument escalated.

After both of the coaches were sent off, it seemed as the game calmed down. The next 20 minutes were spent with America attempting to put the final nail in the coffin, but were unable to do so. Those missed chances would come back to bite them in stoppage time. This happened four minutes in, as Joel Campbell scored the equalizer to silence the crowd. Nestor Araujo was subbed in to strengthen the defense and see the game out, but instead he lost his mark and allowed Campbell to make the shot.

Club América were minutes away from their third consecutive win, but not only did their defense let them down, so did the offense, as they failed to capitalize multiple chances. Club León are more than happy to walk away with a point as their remaining games won’t be easy, and taking even a point in this one is a plus. Only four games remain in the regular season and both clubs want to finish in the top four with a direct spot in the liguilla.