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America, Cruz Azul play to scoreless draw in first leg of Mexico soccer final

Club America's Bruno Valdez (bottom) vies for the ball with Cruz Azul's Roberto Alvarado during the first leg of the Mexican soccer league's Apertura 2018 final, a match played at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, Mexico, on Dec. 13, 2018. EPA-EFE/JOSE MENDEZ

Club America’s Bruno Valdez (bottom) vies for the ball with Cruz Azul’s Roberto Alvarado during the first leg of the Mexican soccer league’s Apertura 2018 final, a match played at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, Mexico, on Dec. 13, 2018. EPA-EFE/JOSE MENDEZ

EFE

Mexico City teams Club America and Cruz Azul played to a scoreless draw in the first leg of the final of the Mexican soccer league’s Apertura 2018 championship.

Chances on goal were few and far between in Thursday night’s contest at Estadio Azteca (both teams’ home ground) due largely to a lack of patience and creativity.

Top-seeded Cruz Azul, technically the visitors, had one of their best opportunities of the game in the 10th minute on a header by defender Julio Cesar Dominguez, but America goalkeeper Agustin Marchesin made a stunning save to keep the game scoreless.

Two minutes later, promising 18-year-old America star Diego Lainez shook off a defender and delivered a pass to Renato Ibarra, but the Ecuadorian winger sent his shot over the crossbar.

But the rest of the first half was more uneventful, as both sides were careful not to commit costly blunders.

The second half began at a blistering pace, with Cruz Azul goalie Jose de Jesus Corona having to come up with a remarkable save in the 48th minute to thwart a close-range attempt by Colombian midfielder Mateus Uribe.

The play had been set up by a run down the right side by Uribe’s countryman, Roger Martinez.

Second-seeded America lost both Uribe and Martinez to injury during the second half, which was plagued by numerous fouls and possession losses.

Cruz Azul had one final opportunity to win the game deep into second-half stoppage time, but Edgar Mendez’s shot off a pass from Martin Cauteruccio clanked off the crossbar.

Marchesin helped prevent the goal by moving off his line and pressuring Mendez.

The champion of the Apertura 2018, the first of two tournaments in 2018-2019 Liga MX season, will be decided in Sunday evening’s second and final leg.

That match also will be played at Estadio Azteca, with Cruz Azul technically serving as the hosts.

The away goals rule is not applied in the final.


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