Mexico: Mohamed debut brings early, continued success for Club América

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When we last left Liga MX, León was claiming their first title in 21 years, Miguel Herrera was moving on from the Club América job, and former Tijuana boss Antonio Mohamed was ready to return from Argentina for a chance to continue the Águilas’ success. The Mexico City titans had won the 2013 Clausura and finished top of the fall campaign’s qualification stage before falling to León in last tournament’s finals. With neither Copa Libertadores nor CONCACAF Champions League to distract his team, Mohamed was inheriting a talented and potentially single-minded side, making América one of the favorites to claim another title.

But for those hoping América’s time near the top might end, there was potential in discontinuity. Although Mohamed (pictured, right, with Tijuana) had proven himself by guiding Xolos to the 2012 Apertura crown, bringing in a new coach still represented a transition for América, particularly given the success Herrerra had brought back to the Azteca. Yet with the Águilas falling 5-1 in December’s final, detractors could hope some kind of negative momentum would carry forward into the winter season.

That hope, however, was squelched 10 minutes into América’s Saturday match against Tigres. Opening the Clausura at home against the team that played them to a standstill (3-3) in the Apertura’s quarterfinals, América went up early through Luis Gabriel Rey, whose deflected shot off Carlos Salcido gave Enrique Palos no chance to prevent the opener. By the half-hour mark, Mohamed’s men had doubled their lead, with Paul Aguilar getting into the penalty area for an easy right-footed finish from 16 yards. Four minutes after half time, when Raul Jiménez cut across Juninho to set up two open chances on Palos, América had a 3-0 lead, an advantage they’d carry through the final whistle.

Mohamed’s site let up, but the final numbers were still lopsided. Come full-time, that 49 minutes of damage had padded an 8-1 advantage in shots on goal. Whereas Tigres had played the Águilas to within a goal of Liguilla elimination five weeks ago, they were outclassed by just after intermission on Saturday.

It was a bad omen for those hoping América might falter. After 90 minutes of Mexico’s latest tournament, any wish América would stall was rebuked.

There was no transition here. Instead, América appears refocused. Through one round of the new tournament, they’re on top of Liga MX’s table – the only team to win their opening match by more than one goal.

Elsewhere

  • Morelia 0, Querétaro 1 – An early set piece goal from Miguel Martínez held up as the Gallos Blancos withstood a late red card to claim one of the weekend’s three wins.
  • Santos Laguna 1, Chivas 1 – Omar Bravo’s return to Chivas paid off when the former Sporting KC man finished for the middle of the area in the second minute. Five minutes after half-time, an own goal from Isreal Castro equalized for Santos, who were forced to hang on after Oswaldo Alanís earned a second yellow in the 66th minute.
  • Monterrey 0, Cruz Azul 0 – A disappointed Tecnológico was left disgruntled when the final whistle blew on Saturday’s lackluster affair, leaving La Machina with an early road result. Marco Fabian made his Cruz Azul debut, while none of the Cementeros’ MLS additions cracked Luis Fernando Tena’s 18.
  • Pachuca 0, Toluca 1 – A 75th minute goal from Pablo Velazquez saw the Red Devils to take full points after the Tuzo defense allowed the 26-year-old Paraguayan to turn on a left-footed shot from near the spot.
  • Chiapas 1, Veracruz 1 – First half goals from Lucas Viatri and Jehu Chiapas cancelled out in one of the weekend’s six draws.
  • Atlas 0, Tijuana 0 – Herculez Gomez, Joe Corona, and Greg Garza were all in César Farías’s starting XI, which managed only two shots on target while claiming a point in Guadalajara.
  • Pumas 2, Puebla 2 – Martín Bravo had Pumas up two after 36 minutes (one from the spot, the other via deflection), a lead that collapsed dramatically in second half stoppage time. In the 91st minute, Matias Alustiza lobbed Pumas keeper Alejandro Palacios from 21 yards out, while Cesar Sánchez completed Puebla’s comeback with a penalty conversion in the 95th minute.
  • Atlante 1, León 1 – On a chewed up pitch in Cancún, Manuel Viniegra’s 46th minute goal pulled back Carlos Peña’s first half opener, with relegation-embattled Atlante taking points from the defending champions to open the season.

Others
América 3, Tigres 0

Standings
(All teams have played one match)

1. Club América, 3 pts.
2. Querétaro, 3 pts.
2. Toluca, 3 pts.
4. Puebla, 1 pt.
4. Pumas, 1 pt.
6. Atlante, 1 pt.
6. Chiapas, 1 pt.
6. Chivas, 1 pt.
6. León, 1 pt.
6. Santos Laguna, 1 pt.
6. Verzcruz, 1 pt.
12. Atlas, 1 pt.
12. Cruz Azul, 1 pt.
12. Monterrey, 1 pt.
12. Tijuana, 1 pt.
16. Morelia, 0 pts.
16. Pachuca, 0 pts.
18. Tigres, 0 pts.

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

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Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

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Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.

West Ham signs club record center back from Toulouse

whufc.com
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West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.

[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]

Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.

Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.

Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.

From WHUFC.com:

“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 3

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In the third episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England pulls out a massive win while VAR finds its way into the World Cup spotlight.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.