Club América had the chance to maintain their place at the top of the table when they welcomed Monterrey to the Estadio Azteca on Saturday, but the game instead ended in a 1-1 draw with both teams tied at 11 points after a painful one for both. The Águilas will have a short turnaround as they start their journey in the CONCACAF Champions Cup when they travel to face Real Estelí later tonight. Monterrey will also have a short turnaround as they travel to face Comunicaciones in the CONCACAF Champions Cup also tonight.
Águilas went into the game without three of their top players since Henry Martín, Kevin Álvarez and Richard Sánchez were unavailable due to injuries and suspension. Martín sprained his ankle and was seen wearing a boot earlier in the week while Álvarez sat the game out due to physical discomfort. Sánchez on the other hand, did not play as he was sitting out to serve his suspension from the week prior where he was given a red card against Necaxa.
Rayados on the other hand, had only one player sit out as Gerardo Arteaga fulfilled his one-game suspension after he received a red card in his last game with Genk in Belgium. The action started in the third minute as Alejandro Zendejas attempted to send a cross into the box, but his shot had too much power and went out for a goal kick. The visitors had their first chance of the night when in the sixth minute Brandon Vázquez tried to get to the ball in the area, but Sebastián Cáceres was there to head the ball into Luis Angel Malagón’s hands. América had their best chance to open the scoring when Diego Valdés had an open shot on goal, but he could not head it in the right direction. Valdés had another opportunity, but his shot went straight to keeper Esteban Andrada’s hands. Monterrey then had back-to-back chances to score, but either Malagón got to the ball or the defense was there to stop any threat. It wasn’t until the 24th minute when the hosts opened the scoring in the Azteca.
Emilio Lara, who was once upon a time an undisputed starter, sent a cross in where Valdés was unmarked and all he had to do was turn his head and this time, he didn’t miss and got the ball into the back of the net. Neither Victor Guzmán or Erick Aguirre stopped the Chilean who beat them both to the ball. A few minutes later, it looked as if América doubled their lead, but the goal by Quiñones was ruled offside because Illian Hernández sent him the ball instead of taking the shot himself. Maybe Hernández was scared he would miss or he wanted to be selfless, but that cost them a possible goal. In the 34th minute, Valdés fell inside the box asking for a penalty. The referee did not call it and upon a second look, he did the right thing seeing as Sebastián Vegas planted his foot first into the ground and Valdés ran into it after most likely seeking a penalty. Rayados finally got the equalizer they were looking for minutes later.
Lara had been having an incredible game for 39 minutes until he committed an error that resulted in the equalizer for Monterrey. In the 40th minute, Sergio Canales made his way into América’s box as Maxi Meza sent a cross in. Lara saw the ball coming and instead of kicking it out, he touched it with his foot, which stopped it from going out, and the rebound sent the ball to Canales’ boots who then put it into the back of the net to tie up the game 1-1. It was a tough pill to swallow for Lara. He then tried to make up for his mistake by sending multiple balls into Rayados’ box, but none of his teammates were able to get on the end of the ball. The half ended with the 1-1 score with home fans hoping to see more goals from the Águilas in the second half.
The action in the second half started in the 47th minute when Quiñones attempted his shot at goal, but couldn’t control the ball and it was too far for him to get off a proper shot. Two minutes later, Fidalgo had his chance in the box, but Guzmán was there to send the ball out for a corner instead. Igor Lichnovsky headed the ball towards goal on the subsequent corner, but it went way above the crossbar. Rayados had their first chance of the half in the 59th minute, but it led nowhere. Brian Rodríguez, who had entered the game minutes prior, had his chance at goal but his shot went towards Andrada who was unable to keep hold of the ball as it went out for a corner for the home team.
América had their best chance of the half when Jonathan dos Santos sent in a ball to Quiñones who was not able to get his head in the right direction and sent the ball just wide of the net. Two minutes later, Fidalgo had his chance in the box, but as he was going to attempt his shot, he slipped and the visitors were quick to get the ball out of danger. The Águilas took another hit in the 76th minute as Lichnovsky went down and didn’t get back up. The medical cart was brought out and he had to be subbed out. Minutes later, he was seen sitting on the bench with ice on his right thigh.
A few minutes later, Monterrey were awarded a corner and Rodrigo Aguirre, who entered the game right before the corner, got his head on the ball, but it hit the crossbar and went out. The Águilas were saved thanks to the crossbar. América had their chance as the game was close to the end as Fidalgo sent a ball into the box intended for Quiñones, but he unfortunately slipped before he could get the shot off. Then in the 89th minute, Jesús ‘Tecatito’ Corona had his first chance after entering the match to go for goal, but he skied his chance. It was one minute into stoppage time when Héctor Moreno, who had been subbed off more than 30 minutes prior, was handed a red card for screaming at the referee.
"¡Puta madre cabrón!, ¿en qué puta jugada les vas a ayudar?", gritó Héctor Moreno desde la banca al cuarto árbitro, Abraham de Jesús Quitarte, al minuto 91. Y por eso fue expulsado.— San Cadilla El Norte (@SancadillaNorte) February 4, 2024
Cortizo had the last chance of the game as he had the ball in the box. Instead of going for a shot, he attempted to pass the ball off to a teammate, but the ball got stolen.
The game was not a good one for either club. The hosts only had seven shots, with just three of them on target, while the visitors had eight shots and just one on target, which was their goal. This game was perfect for either side to take, yet they couldn’t. The Águilas were able to stop Brandon Vázquez completely, who has excelled with Rayados since his arrival, but they were unable to break down the visitors’ defense. Now both teams will look to get back on track quickly as their CONCACAF Champions Cup adventure begins tonight.