Leones Negros won their first league game since their return to the top flight after beating reigning champions Leon 1-0 at the Estadio Jalisco this evening.
They went into the game rooted to the foot of the table and with only one goal to their name from four matches. Leon had also been less than impressive, but at least could fall back on the excuse that two Liguillas, a Copa Libertadores campaign and the World Cup had left several of their players feeling jaded ahead of the Apertura. Nonetheless, their tiredness wouldn't have been helped by Tuesday evening’s trip to Spain for a mid-season friendly against Barcelona, and they badly needed to get back to winning ways against arguably the league’s weakest side.
The hosts made a single change from the team which lost 1-0 to Atlas last weekend, as the suspended Diego Campos was replaced by Andres Rios - the man responsible for the team’s only goal of the season before today. Leon also made changes, bringing in Edwin Hernandez for Jose Cardenas, Wanderley de Jesus Sousa for Luis Delgado and Aldo Rocha for Mauro Boselli.
Edwin Hernandez was coming back into the side after serving a one match ban for a red card against Chiapas, but his reintroduction to the team was short lived. The left back was shown another red card - his second of the season - after just twenty minutes following a late lunge on Luis Fernando Telles. The decision was arguably harsh, but Leon’s protests fell on deaf ears.
The sending off presented Leones Negros with the perfect opportunity to pick up their first three points of the season, but the closest they got the breaking the deadlock before half time was when William Yarbrough produced a world-class fingertip save to turn Telles’ effort onto the post.
They wasted a second great chance just after halftime when Fidel Martinez saw his shot blocked on the line by Juan Gonzalez . Yarbrough was in no-mans-land after being fortunate not to concede a penalty for a rash challenge on William Ferreira. Moments later the ‘keeper redeemed himself, however, turning away another fine effort from Martinez.
Martinez finally got the goal to break the deadlock with twenty minutes to go. Leon failed to properly clear the ball thus allowing a hopeful punt back into the area to find Ferreira, whose cushioned header gave the Ecuadorian the easy job of smashing in from close range.
The ten men of Leon searched in vain to find an equaliser, with their job being made slightly easier with ten minutes remaining after Leones Negros’ captain Leandro Cufre was shown a straight red for a raised foot on Mauro Boselli. Despite the referee levelling up the numbers, Leon failed to find a way through the resolute Leones Negros defence and they held of for their first three points of the season.
The win means the hosts move above Morelia and into seventeenth place with four points. They trail Pumas on goal difference and are now only one point behind relegation rivals Puebla and Chivas. Leon stay twelfth with six points, two points outside the Liguilla places.
Next up for Leones Negros is a Copa MX game against Dorados then a trip to Baja California to face Tijuana in Week 7. Leon host Costa Rican side Herediano in the CONCACAF Champions League on Wednesday then welcome Pachuca next weekend.