América earns draw at Cruz Azul in Liga MX final first leg

A first half equalizer from Mexico international Julián Quiñones secured a 1-1 away draw for Club America against Cruz Azul in the first leg of the Liga MX final.

Held in Cruz Azul's packed Estadio Ciudad de los Deportes, Thursday's match hit the ground running with a sixth minute penalty call in the home side's favor after Uriel Antuna was fouled in the box by America goalkeeper Luis Malagón.

With a chance to score his first playoff goal in the current Clausura season, Antuna stepped up to the spot and slotted the ball past Malagon in the ninth minute.

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Given little time to celebrate, the Cruz Azul-heavy crowd then watched the visitors quickly respond. Following a throw-in made by U.S. men's national winger Alejandro Zendejas, America striker Henry Martín sent a cross over to Quiñones, who made it 1-1 after finding the back of the net from short-range in the 16th minute.

Despite Cruz Azul ramping up pressure with six shots in total during the first half, in comparison to the lone shot from America, both sides headed to their locker rooms with a 1-1 stalemate at the halftime whistle.

Eager to make an early impact after the break, America engaged in a more vertical and decisive approach in the 2nd half. By the 66th minute, the current title-holders were just a few feet away from scoring once again after Cruz Azul defender Willer Ditta was forced to make a near-goal line clearance that halted another opportunity from Quiñones.

Although tactical substitutions from both sides added more chances in the final third for each, the 1-1 scoreline was ultimately cemented at the final whistle.

On Sunday, the second leg of the Liga MX final will be played at America's Estadio Azteca.

While Cruz Azul are aiming for their 10th title -- which would put them joint-third in the all-time list alongside Toluca -- America will be looking to extend their record tally of championships to 15.

Sunday's match will be the last for America at the Estadio Azteca until more stadium renovations are finalized ahead of the 2026 World Cup.

Before Thursday's first leg of the final, Club America president Santiago Baños opened the door to the possibility of playing league games across Mexico and in the U.S. while the Estadio Azteca is unavailable.