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Club America and Guadalajara win big
by Ridge Mahoney, January 7th, 2009 7AM
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[INTERLIGA] Three nights after playing a 1-1 tie in Houston, Superclasico rivals Guadalajara and Club America stayed tied in the standings by routing their opponents, 3-1, Tuesday at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas in front of 17,057 fans.

A pair of late goals by Carlos Ochoa broke open a 1-1 game and carried Chivas past Guadalajara rival Atlas. It shares the Group B lead alongside Club America, which surrendered an early goal to UNL before overpowering Tigres by the same 3-1 final score.

With matching 1-0-1 records and four points in the standings, Guadalajara and America need only tie in their final group games Friday at Home Depot Center to clinch spots in the dual finals at HDC on Sunday. The winners of those finals qualify for the 2009 Copa Libertatores as two of the three Mexican representatives.

Should Atlas and UNL somehow win, all four teams would finish with four points and force a historic tiebreaking process, but based on their Tuesday neither team has much chance of that happening when they swap Superclasico rivals. The big clubs shook off brief intervals of confusion to take command and win going away.

Guadalajara squandered several great opportunities while leading 1-0, and struck back quickly after Bruno Marioni scored a stunning equalizer for Atlas in the 75th minute. Ramon Morales had pushed Guadalajara into the lead by smashing a penalty kick into the top corner in the 21st minute after a handball by Atlas defender Nestor Vidrio but long stretches of dominance failed to produce a second goal.

Marioni punched home the rebound of a fine Luis Ernesto Michel save on a low drive from Gonzalo Vargas, who raced up the left flank and fired low to the far post from a sharp angle. Michel sprawled to get his left glove to the ball, but pushed it right to Marioni, who scored five goals for Atlas in InterLiga 2008.

Guadalajara rode out a few anxious moments, but soon regained control. In the 79th minute, Ochoa polished off a great feed from substitute Sergio Avila, who danced through a quartet of defenders on the dribble before laying off a ball that Ochoa, squanderer of two earlier opportunities, fired into the net.

Five minutes later, Atlas failed to control its own throw-in and Ochoa broke through to score his second and knot America and Guadalajara atop the group.

UNL took a 1-0 lead midway through the first half on a rebound shot of its own following a Lucas Lobo corner kick that Pedro Benitez drilled off the base of the post. Before any America player could react, Guillermo Marino had knocked home the carom in the 22nd minute.

Defending InterLiga champion America equalized 14 minutes later with yet another rebound when Enrique Vera followed up an Alfredo Talavera save of Robert de Pinho's breakaway attempt and smacked it into the net. America doubled its lead at that critical moment just before halftime when a Salvador Cabanas free kick struck the defensive wall and floated into the net.

In the 59th minute de Pinho converted a penalty kick to clinch victory for America. Talavera charged out to challenge de Pinho and wiped him out with a hard tackle without getting a piece of the ball and the Brazilian forward coolly stroked home from the spot.

Interliga play resumes Thursday at HDC with the final round of play in Group A. Pachuca (2-0-0, 6 points) has already clinched a spot in the finals and meets Morelia (0-1-1, 1 point) at 9 p.m. (ET); UAG (1-1-0, 3 points) faces Toluca (0-1-1, 1 point) at 11:30 p.m. Both games will be televised live on Fox Sports en Espanol.

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