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Goals, crowds scarce as Interliga kicks off
by Ridge Mahoney, January 4th, 2008 6:45AM
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The Mexican League is renowned for its flowing, attacking style, but little scoring has been on display so far as eight Mexican teams vie for two Copa Libertadores spots in the USA-hosted InterLiga. Three goals in four matches is the aggregate after Club America beat Morelia, 1-0, following a 0-0 tie between Toluca and Atlas Thursday night in the Group A Interliga openers at Robertson Stadium in Houston.

A crowd of 9,354 was announced for Robertson Stadium doubleheader.

On Wednesday at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas, San Luis beat Cruz Azul and UNAM toppled Monterrey by 1-0 scores in Group B before an announced crowd of 8,504.

Alejandro Arguello lashed home a 25-yard shot in the 11th minute and Club America goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa repelled a Mauricio Martin Romero penalty kick nine minutes into the second half to take Las Aguilas to the top of Group A.

Although teams have been training for weeks, most players arrived in the United States only a few days ago and have to yet to scrape off the holiday rust.

San Luis beat Cruz Azul with an Alfredo Moreno penalty kick to extend Los Cementeros' winless Interliga run to seven games. They have lost five and tied two, and will play their second Group B match without Miguel Sabah and Gabino Velasco, both of whom were ejected.

 

The automatic spots in the Copa Libertadores that are awarded to the top two Interliga finishers has sparked great fan interest and some spirited play since the tournament was instituted in 2004, yet has yet to motivate the first Mexican team to reach the Libertadores final.

Cruz Azul reached the final of the 2001 Copa Libertadores, losing 3-1 on aggregate to legendary Argentine club Boca Juniors. Mexican teams first competed in the 1998 Copa Libertadores; Club America and Guadalajara have each reached the semifinals twice, but advanced no further.

Moreno put away the penalty in the 17th minute after Cruz Azul defender Joel Huiqui felled him. The victory matched a 1-0 win posted by UNAM over Monterrey in the first match marked by a goal from halftime substitute Pablo Bonells.

As a comparison to the three goals scored in the first four InterLiga games this year, the number of goals scored in the first four games since the tournament were:

2007: 12

2006: 18

2005: 12

2004: 11


UNAM and San Luis will meet when Group B play resumes Saturday at Robertson Stadium.

The top two teams in each group advance to the semifinals with the winners qualifying for the Copa Libertadores, which begins in February.

Guadalajara has already been placed into the competition as the Apertura 2006 winner. Clausura 2007 winner Pachuca is obligated to play in the CONCACAF Champions' Cup, which runs concurrently

The most recent domestic competition, the Apertura 2007, went to Atlante, which defeated UNAM in the final, 2-1, on aggregate last month.

Interliga play resumes Saturday in Houston with Cruz Azul (0-1-0) playing Monterrey (0-1-0), and San Luis (1-0-0) squaring off with UNAM (1-0-0). (Fox Sports en Espanol, 8 pm ET & 10:30 pm ET).

On Sunday, Club America (1-0-0) plays Toluca (0-0-1) and Atlas (0-0-1) faces Morelia (0-1-0) in Frisco. (Fox Sports en Espanol, 5 pm ET & 7:30 pm ET).

The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., will host the final days of group play next Tuesday and Wednesday and the semifinals Jan. 12.

 



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