MEXICO CITY, Jan 19 (Reuters) - Striker Raul Jimenez scored with a controversial penalty to give America a 1-0 home win over champions Leon in their first meeting since losing last month's Apertura final.
Jimenez was judged by referee Paul Delgadillo to have been brought down just inside the box midway through the second half of Saturday's match at the Azteca when defender Nacho Gonzalez appeared to tackle him just outside and fairly.
Leon forward Luis Montes was sent off for insulting Delgadillo, leaving his team a man short for the final 23 minutes.
"I never insulted (the referee), I told him to go and celebrate with them (America's players) and I applauded him, I never said a bad word to him," Montes told reporters.
America are second in the standings of the Clausura, the second of two championships in the season, with six points from three matches, while Leon have four.
"We faced the champions in a complicated match but we played better (than them) and scored, you win (games) with goals," America's coach Antonio "Turco" Mohamed told reporters.
Argentine Mohamed took charge this year after America won last season's Clausura championship before finishing the Apertura as runners-up in December under Miguel Herrera, who is now Mexico's World Cup coach.
Cruz Azul went top with a 1-0 win at Chiapas thanks to a 27th minute goal from Argentine former Newell's Old Boys and Blackburn Rovers midfielder Mauro Formica.
The "Blue Machine" can be caught at the top on seven points if Toluca win away to UNAM Pumas at the Olimpico in Mexico City on Sunday.
As well as serving a suspension, Montes could be fined for his dissent, following in the footsteps of two coaches punished by the Mexican Football Federation (FMF) on Friday for breaching its Code of Ethics.
UANL Tigres' Brazilian coach Ricardo Ferretti was fined 269,160 Mexican pesos ($20,300) for saying America played with 12 men, suggesting the referee was on their side, after his team lost 3-0 to America on the opening weekend of the championship.
Herrera was fined 134,580 pesos for criticising the FMF's Refereeing Committee after America's defeat by Leon in the Apertura final. ($1 = 13.2640 Mexican pesos) (Writing by Rex Gowar; editing by Justin Palmer)