Goalkeeper Jose de Jesus Corona leads Cruz Azul against Pumas de la UNAM in Mexican Primera action. (via upload.wikimedia.org)

Mexican Primera Division, Clausura Round 3: Cruz Azul And Pumas de la UNAM Draw 3-3 In An Instant Classic

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Cruz Azul Vs. Pumas de la UNAM: 3-3 Full Time, An Instant Classic

Cruz Azul versus Pumas de la UNAM isn't a standard Clasico, but it certainly felt like it in a 3-3 thriller at Estadio Azul. The hosts felt comfortable going into halftime with a 2-0 lead, but Pumas scored three unanswered goals to take a 3-2 lead of their own and get themselves into position to take a crucial three road points against their Group Three rivals. It wasn't to be, though, as Cruz Azul found the equalizer shortly afterwards.

Cruz Azul's two first half goals both came off set pieces, with Emmanuel Villa and Horacio Cervantes putting in less than stellar goals. It was a lucky first half for the Blue Machine, with the match being fairly even outside of the goals. The second half was a completely different story, with Pumas coming out hungry and looking to get back into the match. Their first goal was scored in the 59th minute by Juan Cacho, assisted by Martin Bravo, shortly after Pumas should have been granted a penalty kick.

The equalizer came on a spectacular header by Dario Veron, who showed off some incredible hops to get to Leandro Augusto's ball and head into the back of the net. Pumas' third goal, the go-ahead goal, was of equal or better quality, an absolute golazo off of a right footed strike by Juan Cacho. After 79 minutes and three unanswered goals, Pumas had a lead on the road.

Pumas' lead was not to last, though, as Cruz Azul found the equalizer just three minutes later, in the 82nd minute. Recent signing Hugo Drougett scored the equalizer after some pretty moves and a slick finish.

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Cruz Azul Vs. Pumas de la UNAM: 2-0 Halftime, Blue Machine Making The Most Of Less Chances

Pumas de la UNAM have played well for most of the first half of their match against Cruz Azul, but it's the hosts that have a 2-0 lead at Estadio Azul thanks to some decent finishing and some awful luck from the visitors. Emmanuel Villa and Horacio Cervantes scored the goals, but incredibly, Cervantes' did not come with his head. Both goals came off set pieces, and Cruz Azul have struggled to create from open play.

The first goal came in the 24th minute off of a scramble. Cruz Azul had multiple chances and Alejandro Palacios made multiple saves before Villa finally poked home his goal to give Cruz Azul a 1-0 lead. That lead doubled in the 35th minute when Cervantes hit a weak right footed shot from 20 yards out that deflected off defender Marco Antonio Palacios. The deflection left his goalkeeper frozen in place and the ball dribbled into the back of the net.

An injury caused Cruz Azul to make a substitution in the first half, with left back Fausto Pinto coming out for attacking midfielder Cesar Villaluz. 

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Cruz Azul Vs. Pumas de la UNAM: Pre-Match Primer

Cruz Azul and Pumas de la UNAM have put out lineups with no surprises for their psuedo-derby match at Estadio Azul. Pumas appear to be lining up in a 3-4-3 setup. It would be a bit of a stretch to call Pumas' wide players "wing backs." Luis Fernando Fuentes and Javier Cortez are wingers more than they are defenders. Pumas' defenders and defensive midfielders are good enough that those players aren't sucked into as many defensive responsibilities as most traditional wing backs. It's ambitious to say the least, but it worked against Pumas. It wouldn't be stunning to see them switch into something more traditional later in the game, though. Cruz Azul will deploy their normal 4-4-2 setup with right midfielder "Chaco" Cristian Gimenez drifting into the center and playing more of a No. 10's role than a right wing role.

Cruz Azul lineup (4-4-2): Corona ; Pinto, Cervantes, Ponce, Chavez ; Drougett, Pineda, Palau, Gimenez ; Orozco, Villa

Pumas lineup (3-4-3): A. Palacios ; Veron, M. Palacios, Velarde ; Fuentes, Castro, Augusto, Cortes ; Bravo, Palencia, Cacho

Kickoff is at 6 pm ET on Azteca America and Fox Deportes.

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Necaxa Vs. Atlas: 0-1 Full Time, Necaxa Cheated Out Of An Equalizer

Atlas have walked away from a road game against Necaxa with another three points, but they will struggle to justify calling them well deserved. They played fairly well and deserved their goal, but the match's final result was marred by terrible officiating and a decision to deny Necaxa a legitimate 89th minute equalizer.

The Atlas goal came from Alfredo "Chango" Moreno after a bit of a scramble. Flavio Santos created the opportunity with a shot on target, which was saved by Necaxa keeper Oscar Perez. The ball fell to Moreno, though, and he slid a low shot past an off-balance Perez into the back of the net to give Atlas a 1-0 lead.

The disallowed equalizer came in the 89th minute, also off of a scramble. Necaxa forwards Ulises Mendivil and Ismail Iñiguez, both on as substitutes, had an exchange on a counter-attack where they beat the Atlas defenders and goalkeeper Miguel Pinto after a series of touches, leading to a tap-in finish. The linesman flagged for offsides, but upon replay, at no point was any Necaxa player even within a yard of being offsides. They stayed behind the second to last defender or the ball for the entire time, never even coming close to level. 

Despite the poor officiating and the fact that Necaxa deserved a point, Wilman Conde continued his great play from the first half and dominated periods of the second half. Atlas was outplayed in the midfield due to Gerardo Espinoza's absence, and defender Nestor Vidrio's injury early in the match made life tougher on Conde as well. He rose to the challenge, and was my man of the match.

With this loss, Necaxa have 0 points from three matches and appear to be as good as relegated. Atlas now have taken all 9 points from their three games, and should spend another week on top of Group Two.

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Necaxa Vs. Atlas: 0-0 Halftime, Wilman Conde Spectacular, Referee Is A Bottler

Necaxa and Atlas are scoreless after 45 minutes, but the match hasn't been without entertainment. Unfortunately, a lot of that entertainment has to do with referee Jesús Fabricio Morales Bojórquez calling an incredibly poor match, but entertainment is entertainment! For the lovers of defense and Chicago Fire fans in the house, Atlas defender Wilman Conde has been spectacular in the first half.

Despite that, Conde found himself as part of some drama in the opening minutes. While he was defending Sergio Blanco, the Necaxa forward accidentally tripped in the box. The referee, stunningly, called a free kick outside of the box and gave a yellow card to Conde. There was no foul committed on the play, but if Conde did indeed make contact with Blanco, the referee would have had no choice but to grant a penalty kick and show Conde a straight red card for denying a clear goal scoring opportunity. Instead of picking one or the other, the referee showed a complete lack of bottle by granting the non-existent middle ground of a free kick from 19 yards and a yellow card.

A similar incident happened at the end of the half on the other end when Gerardo Flores of Atlas was shown a yellow card for diving in the box when he had clearly been contacted. The contact appeared to be incidental and a penalty would have been harsh, but by no means did Flores dive without being contacted. Two big decisions, both wrong.

Atlas captain Gerardo Espinoza didn't start the match and isn't on the bench either, thanks to a bruised thigh, and Atlas have felt his absence. Luis Robles isn't doing much to slow down Necaxa in the midfield, leaving Wilman Conde to do a lot of work. The Colombian and former Chicago Fire man has stepped up and performed admirably, though, denying Necaxa chances over and over again.

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Necaxa Vs. Atlas: Pre-Match Primer

When I pulled up lineups for tonight's matches, the first thing I thought was "shenanigans." Gerardo Espinoza is not included in tonight's Atlas lineup. He was listed as "questionable" earlier in the week, but I'm still surprised to see that Atlas's captain and arguably their best player is supposedly not included tonight. Luis Robles is set to take his place. Otherwise, they make no changes from the lineup they played against Queretaro. Necaxa have made no changes from the side that lost 1-0 to Tigres, with Dario Gandin starting the match on the bench once again.

Necaxa lineup (4-4-2): Perez / Ibarra, Cervantes, Quatrocchi, Castro / Barbosa, Salazaar, Perez, Silva / Suarez, Blanco

Atlas lineup (4-4-2): Pinto / Chavez, Vidrio, Conde, Paganoni / Flores, Ayala, Robles, Pacheco / Santos, Moreno

Necaxa are in desperate need of a win as they currently sit well behind their rivals for a relegation place. Their two losses were an awful start, since they'll probably need somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 points to stay up. Atlas are surprise table toppers, having won their first two matches. Fans were banned from their first two matches to different degrees due to fan violence, so this is the first match Atlas will play this year where the stadium had completely open doors.

Kickoff is at 9:10 pm ET on Azteca America and ESPN Deportes. 

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Mexican Primera Division, Clausura Round 3: Cruz Azul And Pumas de la UNAM Fight For Group Three Supremacy

This week's Mexican Primera schedule is filled with intriguing games, with the battle between Pumas de la UNAM and Cruz Azul to set the pace in Group Three probably taking the cake. Elsewhere, Monterrey will try to kick-start their dead season against Atlante, Pachuca and Santos Laguna face off in an interesting encounter, and Club America take on a new look Tigres de la UANL team who is still working out the kinks - but looking decent in the process.

Tonight, two supposed relegation battlers start the week off as Necaxa hosts Atlas. I say supposed, because Necaxa look to be as good as down after failing to take any points from either of their first two matches, including a poor opening round performance against Jaguares de Chiapas. Atlas are looking spectacular, with their new signings blending into the team instantly. If Necaxa can't win tonight, the party is likely already over. They probably need somewhere between 20 and 25 points to have a good chance to stay up.

Monterrey's match against Atlante is one of the early kickoffs, and anything but three points in that game will set off the alarms at Estadio Tecnologico. Monterrey have failed to take a point from either of their first two matches, including an embarrassing loss to Estudiantes Tecos last week. If they can't win at home against Atlante...I don't even know what to say. Los Rayados are baffling at the moment.

Cruz Azul and Pumas de la UNAM also face off in one of the early Saturday kickoffs, and the Blue Machine will be looking to bounce back from their stunning loss to Atlante last weekend. A good friend of mine was at the game at Cancun. He said, and I quote, "All of the Cruz Azul fans were looking around like 'lol wtf?'" I think that describes their performance perfectly. Pumas de la UNAM put up a very impressive performance last weekend, outplaying Santos from whistle to whistle. Dario Veron and Marco Antonio Palacios were absolutely dominant at the back. If those two are healthy and on form, there's no reason to believe that Pumas will allow more than 15 goals in this tournament, they're that good at the top of their game. How they perform at Estadio Azul could very well be the deciding factor in that match.

Santos Laguna and Pachuca face off in one of the late Saturday kickoffs, while Club America and Tigres de la UANL face off in the late Sunday kickoff. Both games are definitely worth watching and should feature some pretty wide open football.

SB Nation's live coverage of La Primera starts tonight with Necaxa vs. Atlas and we'll have live updates of Cruz Azul vs. Pumas de la UNAM, Santos Laguna vs. Pachuca, Toluca vs. Jaguares de Chiapas, and Club America vs. Tigres de la UANL. 

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