Everyone loves games loaded with goals, provided that there's some degree of quality required to score them and some sort of minimal opposition in front of attacking players. Wednesday's Liga MX Liguilla opener between Club America and Santos Laguna featured neither. Both defenses were hilarious, resulting in eight goals hitting the back of the net between the two teams. In the end, it was America who prevailed, 5-3.
America went on top early off the back of a terrible turnover by Ribair Rodriguez. He tried to get too fancy with the ball at his feet in his own box and lost it to Luis Gabriel Rey, who had a shot saved. The rebound bounced right to Osvaldo Martinez, though, and he was in the perfect spot to finish.
Santos would score the game's next three goals, with two of them coming on set pieces. Rodolfo Salinas scored the first in the 26th minute, and he was one of three Santos players who could have scored. Just about everyone who was attacking the ball stayed onside and got all the way behind the America defense, allowing Salinas to score unopposed.
Carlos Darwin Quintero should have had a second for Santos four minutes later, but his goal was wrongly disallowed. The referee judged that Oribe Peralta handled the ball in the build-up, but replays showed that the ball came off his shoulder, not his arm.
Because of that, the match was tied heading into halftime, but Santos came on fire after the break, when Quintero finally got his goal. Alonso Escoboza set it up, beating 'Maza' Francisco Rodriguez to a ball over the top before squaring for his Colombian international teammate to tap in. They added a third goal five minutes later, with Ribair Rodriguez heading in a free kick from Juan Pablo Rodriguez. It was eerily similar to the first goal, with America's defense completely losing everyone. Maza failed to step up with his teammates and kept everyone offside, putting him at fault for a second goal. That became very relevant later on.
Santos looked to be cruising to a big away win, but Raul Jimenez hit back for America in the 59th minute, heading in a cross by Juan Carlos Medina. Still, Santos did a decent job to regain their composure after that goal and didn't concede too many chances until the final 10 minutes, when everything started to fall apart for them.
While it wasn't directly related to them conceding goals, it probably didn't help Santos that Oribe Peralta had to come off with a knock in the 80th minute. Just one minute later, America were level, with Jimenez scoring yet again. 'El Turco' Antonio Mohamed had subbed Luis Mendoza into the game a bit earlier, and he came up big with an excellent cross into the head of Jimenez for the equalizer.
Mendoza had a part in the eventual winner as well, technically picking up the assist, but the setup was hardly the story on Jimenez's third. The goal was scored with a backheel, though it wasn't a terribly impressive one. Jimenez didn't exactly direct an incredible shot on target. What he did was more like nudging the ball in the general direction of the goal, but the two defenders between him and the goal were baffled, as was goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez.
Sanchez was made to look awful yet again in stoppage time, on America's fifth goal. Rubens Sambueza's strike from distance took a deflection, but it wasn't the kid that should have thrown Sanchez off. Instead, it took a lot of the bite off what would have been a powerful shot, but Sanchez was somehow beaten to his near post by a shot he should have kept out easily.
The comeback and win were impressive from America, but remember those Maza mistakes? Well, he took quite a bit of abuse from his own fans for them, and they didn't forget even after they'd taken the lead. In stoppage time, he made a gesture towards the fans that the referee deemed to be inappropriate and he was sent off. Given his current form, that could be a blessing in disguise for America.
America: Muñoz, Pab. Aguilar (Aldrete 79'), Mosquera, Maza (red 90'), Layun (Mendoza 58'), Sambueza, Medina, Martinez (Andrade 71'), Paul Aguilar, Jimenez, Rey
Goals: Martinez (12'), Jimenez (59', 81', 87'), Sambueza (90')
Santos: Sanchez, Fanjul, Laserda, Figueroa, Alanis, J. Rodriguez, Salinas (Ceballos 56'), R. Rodriguez, Escoboza, Quintero (Renteria 77'), Peralta (Orozco 79')
Goals: Salinas (26'), Quintero (49'), R. Rodriguez (54')