León came into this game with a 1-0 lead, and they didn’t sit back looking to protect it. Instead, La Fiera went on the offensive, looking for the away goal that would put them in a much more comfortable position. Toluca, unbeaten in the Estadio Nemesio Diez this year, did not make good use of their home field advantage. Once again, the Diablos Rojos struggled to get involved in play while León controlled the ball and the rhythm of the game.
Alfredo Talavera was back in goal for Toluca, and Mauro Boselli was his biggest threat in the first half. Boselli sent a powerful header inches wide of the post just before the half-hour mark and had another shot saved in first-half stoppage time. Boselli also provided a dangerous pass to Carlos “Gullit” Peña, whose shot was saved by Talavera, who was the much busier of the two goalkeepers.
Despite León’s dominance, they went into halftime without the breakthrough. The 0-1 aggregate scoreline kept Toluca in the game, as all they needed was a 1-0 win to advance. A moment of extreme controversy changed the face of the tie just minutes into the second half. In the 49th minute, Juan José Vázquez took Carlos Esquivel down in the box. Vázquez caught Esquivel’s trailing leg, sweeping his ankle and pulling his leg out from under him.
It looked like a clear-cut penalty; instead, Roberto García Orozco called it the other way, giving Esquivel a yellow card for simulation. Two minutes later, “Gullit” Peña scored.
Luis Montes sent a cross in and Gullit was there to send it home, putting the ball in the upper corner and giving León the lead with a golazo.
With the 0-2 aggregate score – and León’s away goal – Toluca now needed to find three goals to advance. They were unable to find any, although Esquivel hit the crossbar.
The Diablos Rojos continued pressing forward, but the finishing just wasn’t there. Toluca lost their home unbeaten streak and the chance to reach their second final of the season (after the CONCACAF Champions League).
Meanwhile, León, the 8th seed who squeaked into the playoffs on goal difference after a win in the last game of the season, dispatched the number 1 seed in the quarterfinals and the number 2 seed in the semifinals in their quest to earn back-to-back championships. They’ll face off against Pachuca, their “brother” (the two teams are both owned by Grupo Pachuca) in the Gran Final this week. The official dates and times of the final will be announced on Monday, but the two legs are expected to be played on May 15th and 18th.
Toluca: Alfredo Talavera, Héctor Acosta, Aarón Galindo (Francisco Gamboa 37′), Paulo Da Silva, Miguel Ángel Ponce, Carlos Esquivel, Wilson Tiago, Sinha (Pablo Velázquez 46′), Antonio Ríos, Édgar Benítez (Isaác Brizuela 53′), Raúl Nava.
León: William Yarbrough, Jonny Magallón, Rafael Márquez, Juan Ignacio González, Edwin Hernández, Luis Montes, Juan José Vázquez, Carlos Peña (Aldo Rocha 81′), Elías Hernández (José María Cárdenas 34′), Mauro Boselli, Franco Arizala (Éisner Loboa 54′).