Club America has won the 2013 Liga MX Clausura on the strength of a 2-1 win over Cruz Azul. The aggregate score was 2-2, with America winning, 4-2, on penalties.
It's the club's first title since winning the Clausura in 2005.
ESPN's Max Bretos annointed America champions on Twitter:
Impressionante, PAR-TEE-DAAAH-ZO. America Campeon— Max Bretos (@mbretosESPN) May 27, 2013
Coming into the second leg, America was looking at one-goal deficit. Many thought the club would be able to overturn it, considering how it dominated the first leg without scoring. America would also be returning home to the Estadio Azteca.
The match was shot into life when Jesus Molina was sent off in the 14th minute for fouling Pablo Barrera. It was a controversial call to say the least. Molina had clearly brought down. Whether or not he was the last defender was up for debate.
Molina and America were vehement in their protests, but give credit to the official for drawing the card immediately rather than letting the Cruz Azul players crowd him and influence his decision.
Football writer Kyle McCarthy had a succinct summary of the situation:
Barrera tempted Molina into a rash tackle from behind. Molina made it. And then he walked. Gripping start in Mexico City. #ligamx— Kyle McCarthy (@kylejmccarthy) May 27, 2013
Cruz Azul wasted little time in taking advantage of the man advantage. It immediately went about hitting America on the counter, with numbers in the attacking third. Defenses can have a hard enough time handling a counterattack with 11 men. Take a defender out of the equation and it gets even harder.
In the 20th minute, Teofilo Gutierrez found himself on the right flank with acres of space in front of him. He went right at Aquivaldo Mosquera and had enough space to fire in a low shot into the bottom left corner, past a diving Moises Munoz.
Liga MX captured a snapshot of the goal celebration on its Twitter account:
It wasn't a pretty goal. If Mosquera had more help in the back four, perhaps the attack would have been handled better. Mexican football writer Tom Marshall was complimentary of Gutierrez, but laid a lot of the blame on Mosquera:
Teo Gutierrez getting the better of Colombian teammate Mosquera in the goal. Mosquera really should've done better.— Tom Marshall (@mexicoworldcup) May 27, 2013
Going a goal down was a massive blow for America.
The remainder of the first half was rather uneventful, at least compared to the goal and sending off. America got a few opportunities, but failed to capitalize.
In the 41st minute, Christian Benitez unleashed a nice through ball for Raul Jimenez. Jose de Jesus Corona had a decision to make, and he chose to rush out to meet the ball before Jimenez could get a clean shot. Corona made a great block, and that was the end of that attack for America.
The teams went into the dressing room with Cruz Azul ahead, 1-0, in the second leg and 2-0 on aggregate.
As the second half went on, America began to dictate the pace of the game. The club was firmly on the front foot, but couldn't make any of its chances count.
In the 62nd minute, Barrera managed to get out on the counter for Cruz Azul, but Munoz made the save. It was a huge save because a second goal in the game for Cruz Azul would have taken America out completely.
Cruz Azul had another great chance in the 73rd minute when Christian Gimenez had his shot hit the left post.
As the match inched toward its conclusion, America continued throwing a lot forward. It looked apparent, though, that it would not be able to erase the deficit. The numbers game was just too great to overcome.
After it seemed as if America was dead in the water, it was Mosquera to the rescue. He headed it home to level the match at 1-1 in the 89th minute.
But surely, it was too late for America to claw its way back into the match.
It was not, and the equalizer was just as improbable as the comeback. America had a corner in the 93rd minute. The team pushed everything forward, including Munoz, who scored with a wonderful diving header. The goal was given as an own goal to Alejandro Castro. It was one of the most unbelievable comebacks and goals you'll ever see.
Football blogger Ives Galarcep was impressed by the action to say the least:
If Club America completes the rally, and wins in extra time, after facing an early red card, it will be an all-time comeback. On Univision— Ives Galarcep (@SoccerByIves) May 27, 2013
After what was a frenzied end to the match, it was always going to be a letdown in extra time. Both teams looked very fatigued and played carefully, wary to surrender an all-important goal.
Corona made a fantastic fingertip save on a shot from Benitez in the 100th minute. The striker unleashed a low shot toward the bottom left corner, but an outstretched Corona tipped it away for the corner, with which America did nothing.
It was Benitez again who should have put America ahead. He was one on one with Corona in the 104th minute, but was stopped by the keeper. Benitez wasn't able to pounce on the rebound either.
America was the clear aggressor in extra time, but it couldn't find the key to unlock the Cruz Azul defense. The match eventually went down to penalties.
Marshall felt this was one of the best Mexican finals in recent memory:
Penalties to decide the fate of the Liga MX Clausura championship. One of the great finals in Mexico in recent years. #LigaMX— Tom Marshall (@mexicoworldcup) May 27, 2013
Cruz Azul took the first penalty. It missed its first two, which essentially doomed it to defeat. Miguel Layun hit the decisive penalty for America to give it the 4-2 win in the penalty shootout.
This match had absolutely everything and was a great advertisement for Mexican football. You're unlikely to see a match this entertaining and dramatic again anytime soon.