After stifling Atlético de San Luis away from home, America advanced significantly closer to its 14th Liga MX championship and carried a 5-0 advantage into the rematch on Saturday at Estadio Azteca.
In the fourth minute of play, Diego Valdés converted a brilliant drop pass from Henry Martín, giving the top-seeded Aguilas the early advantage.
After ten minutes, Martín scored at the near post with a header that beat Andrés Sánchez. America had a 2-0 lead after just 25 minutes of play, and they maintained that advantage in the locker room.
Throughout the second half, the Aguilas created numerous scoring opportunities by continuing to slice and dice their way through the Atleti defence. With Valdés scoring his second goal in minute 65 and Julián Quiñones adding a brace before the final whistle (84′ and 90+5′), the championship favourites had to settle for “only” three more goals.
Leal’s risk backfires on him.
Coach Gustavo Leal of San Luis changed his starting lineup, opting for Vitinho and John Murillo to provide speed on the flanks in place of normal centre forward Léo Bonatini.
Poor weather—the game began in a rainstorm and didn’t stop for the duration of the night—as well as unexpectedly subpar performances from midfielders Dieter Villalpando and Javier Güemez derailed the plan.
Álvaro Fidalgo and Jonathan dos Santos controlled the midfield, which allowed the visiting Aguilas to consistently create space and pass the ball to playmakers Quiñones, Martín, and Valdés. Andrés Sánchez, the Atleti goaltender, was always under pressure, particularly after Fidalgo joined the rush. And it happened frequently.
With overlapping runs, Atleti attempted to attack the flanks, but he was unable to breach the American defence. The absence of a centre forward would become apparent on a few times when a forward move resulted in a ball into the area.
In the course of ninety minutes, ten of America’s fifteen shots were on goal, compared to just three for the hosts.
America stretches its winning run to 19 games.
Following their defeat in the season opener, “Los Azulcremas” have gone 14-5-0 and have outscored their opponents 45-14. This includes Wednesday’s stroll in the park.
The first objective was lethal. In his last season, right defender Miguel Layún lofted a long pass to Martín, who controlled it in the box, turned to fend off pressure, and then sent it to Valdés inside the half moon. The Chilean playmaker gave goalie Andrés Sánchez no chance with a one-time shot that bounced off defender Unai Bilbao.
The Aguilas extended their lead before San Luis could gather itself.
Martín, a striker for Team Mexico, completed an impressive drive forward that he helped initiate. “La Bomba” repelled a challenge and returned the ball to Valdés, who misdirected a pass to Quiñones on the left, who took a moment before swiping a lead pass into Fidalgo’s direction. To the left of the goal, the Spaniard dribbled deeply inside the area before chipping a soft cross that Martín precisely met.
Both the game and the series were essentially finished at that point. At Estadio Azteca on Sunday, San Luis must defeat America by a score of six goals in order to keep the Aguilas from winning the Liga MX Final for the first time in four years.