The game was full of controversy from start to finish. In just the 4th minute, referee José Antonio Peñaloza turned to VAR after José Juan Macías was brought down in the box, ultimately awarding León a penalty kick. Macías stepped up to take the penalty himself, and he converted it to give the visitors the 0-1 lead in the 7th minute.
But the lead lasted just three minutes before Morelia struck back. In the 10th minute, Edison Flores received the ball just outside the box, turned, and fired into the upper corner to tie the game 1-1.
The end-to-end pace continued, though, and it wasn’t long before León reclaimed the lead. In the 17th minute, Ángel Mena beat Sebastián Sosa with a low shot from the top of the semi-circle to make it 1-2 for La Fiera.
Morelia continued to press, though, and they tied the game again just past the half-hour mark. In the 32nd minute, Efraín Velarde sent a low cross in from the left and the defense deflected it but couldn’t fully clear it; Flores ran on to the loose ball to make it 2-2 with his second of the night.
The game remained tied going into halftime, but in the second half the teams picked up right where they had left off: with another early goal. In the 47th minute, Leonardo Ramos sent a cross in for Fernando Navarro, who turned and fired to make it 2-3.
The night quickly went from bad to worse for Morelia when they went down to 10 men in the 50th minute after Gabriel Achilier received his second yellow card of the game. Nevertheless, the hosts continued to press, and Fernando Aristeguieta came within inches of tying the game yet again with a shot that went just wide.
Then, in the 75th, it looked like León had put themselves firmly in the driver’s seat when Ángel Mena got behind the defense, rounded the keeper, and put the ball in the net – but the would-be goal was disallowed for offside.
Minutes after that, León went down to 10 men themselves as Yairo Moreno was sent off with his second yellow in the 78th minute.
Now playing 10 vs 10, Morelia pressed even harder for an equalizer, but the closing stages of the game were interrupted by discriminatory chants from the stands, which led to a delay as per Liga MX’s new protocol.
When the game resumed, it was with 12 minutes of stoppage time posted – and in the 102nd minute, Luis Mendoza dramatically headed home a last-gasp cross to tie the game 3-3 at the death.
With the 3-3 draw, Saturday’s second leg will be a winner-takes-all affair. Should the two teams draw again, a 0-0, 1-1, or 2-2 result would advance León due to the away goals tiebreaker, and another 3-3 draw would send León through as the higher seed; a 4-4 result or higher would advance Morelia on away goals.