Club Leon wins sixth Primera title

The anticipated script in the second leg of the Liga MX Apertura final called for yet another Club América response. Club León gathered a two-goal advantage during the first leg on Thursday night. The return encounter at Estadio Azteca offered Las Águilas the chance to reverse the course of the tie and seal their place in history.

León simply would not allow the night to unfold according to plan. Mauro Boselli scored inside the first quarter of an hour to peg América back. Nacho González quelled the América uprising created by his own goal late in the first half by nodding home León’s second six minutes into the second. Edwin Hernández secured León’s sixth title by tucking home the third in the final 20 minutes to give the visitors a 3-1 win on the night and a 5-1 victory on aggregate.

The staggering margin reflected the gulf between the sides over the two legs. León approached the tie with its usually ambitious deportment and continued its incisive work from its previous Liguilla victories. América failed to match the ruthlessness exhibited when it found its openings and watched its dreams of a second consecutive championship and a record 12th title dissipate on home soil in Miguel Herrera’s final match in charge.

León captain Rafa Márquez ended the evening by lifting the trophy high into the Mexico City night. The triumphant moment proved a fitting reward for his resurgence (a first Mexican title) and the efforts of his teammates – integral figures Boselli, Luis Montes, Carlos Peña and William Yarbrough (excellent on this night) all played their part — to dispatch the holders for their sixth title and return to the summit for the first time since the 1991-92 season.

The road to that triumph took more than a few turns along the way after América started brightly in its quest to turn around the tie. Herrera promised his players would approach the game methodically as they attempted to overturn the two-goal deficit from the first leg. The opening exchanges reinforced those tenets with assured and diligent pressure in the right places to place León under duress.

The endeavor nearly yielded the opening goal when Luis Ángel Mendoza shimmied free on the right and struck the far post inside the first 10 minutes. The wayward Narciso Mina missed the first of several chances presented to him on the night shortly thereafter to squander an opportunity to consolidate after the bright start.

León issued its response on the break moments later to extend its advantage in the tie. Peña once again burst effectively through middle as he did in the first leg triumph on Thursday night. Boselli made a clever horizontal run to create a yard of space and then received Peña’s perfectly weighted pass. He then slotted his ninth goal in seven matches past the stranded Moisés Muñoz to increase León’s advantage to three goals.

Herrera eventually responded to the setback by inserting Adrian Aldrete for Juan Carlos Valenzuela and switching to a 4-4-2 setup to push more players into the attacking half. The gambit worked as the match approached halftime with León pinned back into its own defensive third and reduced to plugging holes as América started to expose them.

The resistance eventually broke when Sambueza – cautioned earlier for simulation on the edge of the León penalty area – sliced through two León defenders to devise a shooting opportunity on the right side of the penalty area. Sambueza received a fortunate deflection from González en route to goal to turn his effort from a routine save into the equalizer on the night and the lifeline required in the tie.

América plotted its comeback during the interval only to see those plans essentially discarded in the disastrous first 10 minutes of the second half. A combination of poor set piece marking and urgent forays into the León half increased the deficit and reduced Las Águilas to 10 men in the early stages of the second half.

González delivered the first blow when he atoned for his first-half own goal from a corner kick. The defender located a pocket of space inside the América penalty area and met the ball before Maza Rodríguez could halt his momentum. The resulting header eluded Muñoz and nestled into the back of the net to restore León’s three-goal advantage on aggregate.

Rodríguez compounded his difficult stretch by producing a straight red card moments later. América sent numbers forward and watched León counter quickly from back to front. Matiás Britos dashed behind the veteran Mexican international defender and prompted the inevitable challenge to halt the run. The red card inevitably followed to scupper América’s plans for an unlikely revival.

León secured its sixth title by exposing América’s numerical deficiency and working the ball from right to left for the third. Luis Montes funneled the buildup delicately out to the left for the overlapping Hernandez to place his effort beyond Munoz’s reach and start the celebrations.

The well-worked third goal proved a rather fitting conclusion for an América side unable to find a way to cope with León over the two legs. Herrera eventually earned his dismissal in the final 10 minutes to conclude a successful tenure on a discordant note. He trudged off screaming down the touchline as he vented his frustration about the demise of his bicampeonato dreams in such unceremonious fashion.