In their final pre-season match before the official start of the Liga MX season, Mexico City’s Club América defeated Torreón’s Club Santos Laguna 3-2 Saturday afternoon at a well-attended game in San Antonio at the Alamodome.
The last time the Alamodome hosted such a notable event was in April 2015, when the United States national team took on Mexico’s “El Tri.” The match was delayed due to turf that hadn’t fully set in in time for kick-off, but despite the complications, the U.S. came out with the 2-0 win.
(Read more: USA Spanks Mexico, 2-0, at the Alamodome)
It was likely a sign of relief for players and fans alike that Saturday’s match was played on a grass pitch. The match kicked-off on time and sprung to life in the final five minutes when both teams scored. Club América claimed the win in a penalty shootout.
Club América came into the match off a 2-0 loss in New Jersey to Major League Soccer (MLS) team New York Red Bulls, and was looking to get back into form ahead of the Liga MX season. Santos Laguna recently tied with MLS’ Sporting Kansas City two weeks ago.
The great majority of the support in the stands on Saturday was for Club América, who was favored to win. The team finished fourth in the league last year. Santos Laguna, on the other hand, has been rebuilding and finished an improved seventh in the Clausura – the closing season in Mexico’s split season system. The team was looking to use the match against Club América as an opportunity to show their growth.
Club América appeared to have the lead in the second minute when the ball was sent across the goal face, leaving forward Silvio Romero with a seemingly simple tap-in. But somehow Santos Laguna’s goalkeeper Agustin Marchesin made the save sending it out for a corner.
Less than one minute later, Club América nearly had the lead again when midfielder Darwin Quintero scored, but was called offsides.
Those missed opportunities brought the crowd of about 25,000 people to life each time they occurred.
Club América was dominant throughout the match, and used it to practice skill. Romero, for example, was played through on goal, yet oddly chose to send it back to the wing.
Some of the players on both sides were going down rather theatrically after any contact, which slowed down the match and helped out Santos Laguna since Club América was making runs in the first 20 minutes.
Santos Laguna’s best chance to score in the first half came in the 23rd minute on a free-kick. Midfielder César Ibáñez hit a powerful effort low, which was deflected but saved by Club América keeper Moisés Muñoz.
Muñoz played well to keep Santos Laguna at bay, especially since the team’s finishing was poor, a trend from both sides through the match.
With the Liga MX season underway next week, neither side seemed very interested in putting up too much and risk injury. Despite that, Club América’s midfielder Javier Güémez received a red card after challenging a Santos Laguna player off his feet.
With Güémez out of the game, Santos could control the final stages of the first half, but there was little time for them to capitalize on the advantage. The red card forced Club América to push more men behind the ball, keeping it scoreless at the break.
Santos Laguna started the second half well, pressing high in an attempt to take advantage of having 11 men on the field versus Club América’s 10. That put pressure on the Club América defense, but they dealt with it comfortably, keeping Santos at bay and looked dangerous on the counter attack.
Being one man down didn’t seem to hurt Club América too much, and in the 54th minute they came close to a goal. A corner was perfectly swung in by midfielder William da Silva, finding Romero, whose header went agonizingly wide of goal.
Club América continued its strong attack, and Romero found space from 25 yards out and hit a powerful shot right at the keeper.
Santos came close in the 65th minute when Ulises Dávila was able to make a strong run in to the box on the right. The angle seemed difficult, but his shot was impressive, forcing a good save out of Munoz, to put it out for a corner.
That corner was easily cleared by Club América who quickly ran down the field and produced a corner of their own. That corner beat everybody and eventually fell out for Pablo Aguillar to run on to from defense but his shot went just wide of goal.
Santos Laguna was content to play a patient build up, as they dominated the final 20 minutes of the match. But that build-up failed to produce a goal, as Club América held on, despite playing only with 10 men, as Santos Laguna’s shooting was too often wayward.
In the 86th minute a horrible goal-keeping error gave Santos Laguna the goal they had so long been looking for. A poor attempted clearance from the keeper fell right to Jonathan Rodriguez, who was left with an empty net to pass the ball into for the opener.
But that joy for Santos was short lived as Club América equalized from the kick-off as they moved the ball down the left to create the scoring opportunity. That saw the ball come out to Osmar Mares who was inexplicably left wide open, and scored with a simple diving header.
By the end of the match, Santos Laguna also was reduced to 10 men when a rash challenge from Kristian Alvarez saw him earn his second yellow card. But with little time to take advantage of being back to even strength, América couldn’t find a winner, and the match ended 1-1.
A poor penalty shootout ensued, with the teams combining to miss nine shots. Erik Pimentel eventually put the crowd out of their misery, ending a run of five straight missed penalties to seal the win for Club América.
Top image: Erik Pimatel hits the winning penalty for Club América in a match against Santos Laguna at the Alamodome. Photo by Eric Guzman.