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 By Tom Marshall

Kannemann's brilliance, referee scrutiny headline Liga MX week five

1. Cruz Azul's defense holds strong

A center-back pairing of Francisco "Maza" Rodriguez and Julio Cesar "Cata" Dominguez, combined with Gerardo Torrado's screening in a holding role just in front of the pair, plus Jesus Corona's exploits in goal, screams solidity and experience for Cruz Azul.

So far this Clausura, those features have been on display in bucket-loads, with La Maquina yet to concede a goal in 450 minutes of play. The water-tight defense has helped Cruz Azul move to first place in the league, despite the side only having netted three times at the other end of the pitch.

Luis Fernando Tena's team has gone back to basics after an embarrassing display in the Club World Cup and it has paid off, as was once again shown in Saturday's 1-0 victory over Monterrey.

It isn't the sexy soccer Gustavo Matosas is trying to implement across Mexico City at rival Club America, but it sure is proving effective. Cruz Azul is back.

2. Atlas' Walter Kannemann could be signing of the offseason

If there was one defining feature of incoming transfers to Liga MX in this past transfer window, it was high quality South American players coming to play in the league. Atlas fought off competition from Italian club Lazio to sign Argentine center back Walter Kannemann and there are early signs that he could be the best of a very good new batch of talent from South America.

Kannemann put in a player of the game performance for Atlas against Leones Negros on Sunday in the team's 2-0 victory, curtailing the impact on the game of the always dangerous Fidel Martinez to that of a virtual bystander.

The 23-year-old's name shouldn't be a new one for anyone with even a passing interesting in South American football, considering he won the Copa Libertadores and featured at the Club World Cup with San Lorenzo, but his early form for Atlas has backed up his reputation.

Kannemann has all the toughness and no-nonsense approach to the game usually associated with Argentine defenders and has more than a passing resemblance in style to former Argentina international Gabriel Heinze, who also happens to be his idol.

New arrival Walter Kannemann has been a big presence on the Atlas back line this season.
New arrival Walter Kannemann has been a big presence on the Atlas back line this season.

3. Intense spotlight of refs is going nowhere

The microscope on referees is in sharp focus in Liga MX at present after a number of high-profile blunders early in this Clausura. All the major sports websites in Mexico carried at least one prominently located story bemoaning the quality of the refereeing on Monday morning.

This past weekend, the major errors were officials not seeing a blatant kick by Club America's Darwin Quintero on Morelia's Marco "Pikolin" Palacios, Djaniny Tavares coming from an offside position to net Santos Laguna's winning goal against Chivas and Queretaro goalkeeper Tiago Volpi getting away with raising his foot high against Veracruz striker Julio Furch inside the penalty area.

All were major errors that may well have had a significant impact on final results. Refereeing isn't what anyone wants to be talking about, but it is generating headlines.

4. Leones Negros' relegation battle is real

The Leones Negros from the Universidad de Guadalajara were second best all over the field to Atlas on Sunday and coach Alfonso Sosa was fuming with anger in the post-game press conference. Playing a highly ambitious 4-2-4 formation, Leones Negros were swamped in midfield and the threat from their four Ecuadorian forwards was nullified by a well-drilled Atlas.

At the start of the season, Puebla were considered the favorite to go down to Ascenso MX and Leones Negros were just an afterthought for many. But now it's become a dangerous state of affairs, especially considering Leones Negros are currently bottom of the relegation table.

5. Chiapas having problems paying wages, again

Chiapas may have tied 2-2 against Club Tijuana on Saturday and was once again punching above its weight in the league table, but off-the-field problems aren't going anywhere. Players threatened to refuse to turn up at the team hotel on Friday night before their clash versus Xolos, as captain Javier Munoz confirmed to ESPN that wages haven't been paid to the players. He also hinted that the squad will continue to take measures if the situation continues.

This isn't the first time Chiapas has had financial problems in recent years and it clearly damages the reputation of the league.

Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.

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