Both suspended players belong to Club América, so their suspensions will be served at the start of the Apertura 2016 season after the Águilas were eliminated from the playoffs by Monterrey.
Toluca 4-3 Puebla
Toluca eventually emerged victorious in this seven-goal thriller with Puebla, in which Cuauhtémoc Blanco was sent off late on. The win lifts Toluca to eight points while Puebla remains on 12, with their unbeaten Copa MX run brought to an end. Raúl Nava put the Diablos Rojos in front in just the 8th minute, but Hérculez Gómez equalized for Puebla in the 24th. It didn’t take long for Toluca to retake the lead, however, and they made it 2-1 in the 38th through Miguel Almazán. But that lead would last just a single minute before Puebla found another equalizer, with Gómez scoring his second goal of the night in the 39th minute.
The home team would retake the lead in the second half. Marco Bueno made it 3-2 for Toluca in the 69th and this time Puebla would not equalize. Toluca made it 4-2 through Jerónimo Amione’s golazo, and although Luis Robles reduced the deficit, making it 4-3 in the 87th minute, Puebla could not find a fourth goal in the few minutes remaining.
Atlante 2-3 Mérida
In another high-scoring Group 5 game, Mérida walked away with all three points after beating Atlante on the road, 2-3. The win lifts Mérida to 10 points while Atlante, still winless, remains on two. Atlante twice took the lead but couldn’t hold it. They opened the scoring in the 22nd minute through Francisco Estrada, only for Mérida to tie it up 1-1 in the 33rd minute through Brayan Martínez. The Potros would reclaim the lead before halftime, though, making it 2-1 in the 40th minute through Giancarlo Maldonado.
Mérida would regroup in the second half, however. The equalizer came in the 60th minute, when Brayan Martínez completed his brace, and Atlante was never able to recover. Their hopes of getting anything out of the game were dashed late on, when Ulices Briceño scored the game-winner in the 90th minute.
Group Table – Group 5
All times Eastern, home team listed first.
Friday, January 9
Santos Laguna vs Veracruz – 9:00 PM – Azteca America
Monarcas Morelia vs Toluca – 10:30 PM – ESPN Deportes. TV Delay: 11:00 PM – Azteca America
Saturday, January 10
América vs León – 6:00 PM – Univision Deportes
Puebla vs Tijuana – 6:00 PM – Azteca America
Tigres UANL vs Atlas – 8:00 PM – Univision Deportes
Pachuca vs Cruz Azul – 9:06 PM – Telemundo
Jaguares de Chiapas vs Chivas de Guadalajara – 10:00 PM – Univision Deportes
Sunday, January 11
Pumas UNAM vs Querétaro – 1:00 PM – Univision / Univision Deportes
Leones Negros vs Monterrey – 6:00 PM – Univision Deportes
It has been rumored for days that Ángel Reyna will be leaving Veracruz, the team he joined ahead of the Apertura 2013 and helped save from relegation, and his most persistent suitor has been Chivas de Guadalajara.
On Wednesday, the President of the Tiburones Rojos, Fidel Kuri, told MedioTiempo that he has no interest in selling Reyna. “When I bought Ángel Reyna, they told me ‘he’s worth a peso’ and I told them I’d give them 50 cents, but he was worth a peso and that was what I paid for him. He saved the team for me, he scored nine goals. I know who Reyna is, apart from being a great human being, he’s a friend and I love him like a son.”
However, he also said, “If there’s a good offer that allows me to reinforce my team, there wouldn’t be any problem as long as they pay what he’s worth. For me, Reyna is the best player in Mexico.”
Nothing has been made official yet, but Reyna was spotted in Guadalajara Saturday night, which has added more fuel to the rumor fire. The two teams are still negotiating, with Veracruz wanting a significant sum for the player (around 10 million), which is the last hurdle as Chivas has reportedly already reached personal terms with Reyna.
León achieved back-to-back league titles, el bicampeonato, thanks to a 2-0 win (4-3 aggregate) against Pachuca. The 1-0 (3-3) score after ninety minutes sent the game to extra time, where Nacho González found the decisive goal in the 112th minute.
Down a goal on aggregate from the first leg, injuries forced León to use two of their substitutions within the first ten minutes of the game. First Jonny Magallón was unable to recover from an early knock, and then Franco Arizala came up lame with an apparent pulled hamstring. Nevertheless, the changes didn’t seem to disrupt León’s rhythm to any great degree. Despite being the home team, Pachuca didn’t test William Yarbrough until the 22nd minute, and even that was from distance.
The game was much tenser and played much tighter than the first leg, with both teams desperate to win and equally desperate not to lose. As the second half wore on, it became increasingly clear that it was going to be either a moment of genius or a mistake that decided the game. Pachuca has the youngest average age of any team in Liga MX, but it was their veteran, their captain, 41-year-old goalkeeper Óscar Pérez, who made the costly error.
In the 66th minute, Elías Hernández sent in a cross that Mauro Boselli met with a header. Pérez initially appeared to have made the save, but he never got control of the ball and it went right through him into the net. The aggregate was tied; away goals are not a factor in the Gran Final. And so the 1-0 lead (3-3 aggregate) was enough to send the game on to extra time.
The first fifteen minute half passed with few moments of danger from either team. In the second fifteen, an air of desperation began to creep back into the game. Push forward? Stay back? Risk it all now or try to hold on for penalties? The crowd grew increasingly tense.
And then, in the 112th minute, another header. Luis Montes swung in a corner kick – the second in quick succession – and Juan Ignacio González was there. His header sent León into ecstatic celebrations: they now had the aggregate lead.
With nothing left to lose, Pachuca kept trying to press forward, but were thwarted at every turn. A corner kick very late on gave the home team some hope, with even Pérez coming forward, but nothing came of it. After 120 minutes of soccer, plus three minutes of stoppage time, Francisco Chacón blew the whistle on León’s historic win.
The 8th seed overcame the odds to even get into the playoffs, needing a series of last-day results to get into 8th place. Then they overcame the odds to reach the final, upsetting Cruz Azul and Toluca, the first and second seeds, in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively. And finally, they came from behind in the final itself, overturning an aggregate deficit to win the final and the bicampeonato. León becomes the second team to achieve the feat of back-to-back titles since the introduction of short seasons after Pumas UNAM did so in the Clausura 2004 and Apertura 2004 (previously, Necaxa had managed it in the 1994/95 and 1995/96 seasons).
Pachuca: Óscar Pérez, Rodolfo Pizarro, Miguel Herrera, Hugo Rodríguez, Walter Ayoví, Jorge Hernández (Daniel Arreola 82′), Erick Gutiérrez (Diego de Buen 64′), Hirving Lozano, Dieter Villalpando, John Fredy Pajoy (Jürgen Damm 46′), Enner Valencia.
León: William Yarbrough, Jonny Magallón (Eisner Loboa 5′), Rafael Márquez, Juan Ignacio González, Edwin Hernández, Franco Arizala (José María Cárdenas 8′), Juan José Vázquez, Carlos Peña, Elías Hernández, Luis Montes, Mauro Boselli (Miguel Sabah 109′).
The second leg of the Gran Final between Pachuca and León will be played Sunday night in the Estadio Hidalgo (9:00 PM – Univision Deportes / Unimás). Pachuca picked up a 3-2 away win in the first leg this past Thursday, but there is no away goals tiebreaker in the final: if León ties the aggregate, the game will go to extra time and penalty kicks if needed.
Francisco Chacón Gutiérrez will be in charge of the second leg, along with his assistants Marvin Cesar Torrentera and Juan Joel Rangel. César Ramos didn’t hand out any red cards in the first leg, so both teams will have their full squads available for selection for the second leg. Pachuca will also have Walter Ayoví available after the Colombian missed the first leg due to suspension.
In the first leg, Carlos Peña opened the scoring for León, but a brace from Enner Valencia allowed Pachuca to turn things around. Hirving Lozano made it 3-1 Pachuca before Miguel Herrera’s own goal gave León a lifeline.
León will need to find a way to deal with Valencia, the lethal Ecuadorian who has 18 goals in his first season with Pachuca, including six in the playoffs. Pachuca will need to step up defensively as well, and minimize the errors that have at times plagued the young team. The lack of an away goals tiebreaker in the final means Pachuca has very little margin for error, and León will come out hard looking for their second consecutive title.
The expected reinsertion of Ayoví in midfield should help the Tuzos see more of the ball – they were overrun by León at the beginning and end of the first leg – and there’s some speculation that León’s Luis Montes might miss or at least play a reduced role in the second leg due to injury, although that has not been officially confirmed.
With the league title on the line, this game is not one to miss.
[Ed. note: For second leg recap click here]
The first leg of the Gran Final didn’t disappoint, with both teams displaying open, attacking soccer in a packed Estadio León. The crowd of 29,700 witnessed an entertaining back-and-forth game that finished León 2, Pachuca 3.
León was the home team and for the first half, they looked dominant. La Fiera had more of the ball and kept it largely on Pachuca’s half of the field, generating ten shots and eight corner kicks. Carlos “Gullit” Peña hit the crossbar in the 8th minute, but it took León until the 33rd minute to find the breakthrough.
José María Cárdenas swung in yet another corner kick for León, and Gullit Peña was there to head it home. Óscar Pérez had put a defender on the near post but not on the far post, and that was where Peña’s header found its mark.
Enrique Meza made his first substitution just minutes after the goal went in, but Erick Gutiérrez had already been warming up when it was 0-0. With the absence of the suspended Walter Ayoví, Pachuca was being overrun in midfield, and Meza didn’t hestitate to make the tactical substitution, bringing on Gutiérrez for Abraham Darío Carreño.
Whether it was the result of the substitution or the impetus of going a goal behind, Pachuca began playing better almost immediately and they found the equalizer before halftime. In the 41st minute Enner Valencia – who else? – got on the end of a Dieter Villalpando free kick and scrambled it home to make it 1-1 going into the break.
The Pachuca team that came out in the second half was a much more energized team than the one that had started the first half. The Tuzos quickly earned their first corner kick of the game and generally looked more confident, composted, and threatening.
In the 61st minute, Villalpando and Valencia combined once again from a dead ball situation, this time a corner kick. Villalpando swung the ball in and Valencia headed it past a diving Yarbrough to make the score 2-1 in favor of the visitors. It was Valencia’s sixth goal of the playoffs and his 18th of the season; the Ecuadorian simply cannot stop scoring. Unfortunately from Pachuca’s perspective, he had to leave the game in the 66th minute with a knock.
Having seen their lead evaporate, León struggled to get back into the game and 18-year-old Hirving Lozano appeared to have put the game to bed in the 69th minute with a perfectly-placed diagonal shot into the far corner that gave Pachuca the 3-1 lead.
Nevertheless, there was still fight in La Fiera and they took advantage of their dead ball opportunities to make things interesting. In the 76th minute, Miguel Herrera headed Elías Hernández’s free kick into his own net to reduce Pachuca’s lead to one goal and give León new energy.
León reasserted themselves in the last ten minutes of the game and Óscar Pérez became the hero for Pachuca as the veteran goalkeeper did his utmost to maintain the lead. “El Conejo” made several fantastic saves and Miguel Herrera cleared a ball off the line in the dying moments, and the lead held.
The second leg will be played Sunday, May 18th (9:00 PM – Univision Deportes / Unimás). A win or a draw would do it for Pachuca, while León needs a two goal win to claim their second consecutive title. Remember that there is no away goals rule in the final: if the aggregate score is tied (if León wins by one goal) the game will go to extra time and penalties if needed.
León: William Yarbrough, Jonny Magallón (Miguel Sabah 66′), Rafael Márquez, Edwin Hernández, Carlos Peña (Mauricio Castañeda 82′), Luis Montes (Elías Hernández 66′), Juan José Vázquez, José María Cárdenas, Eisner Loboa, Mauro Boselli.
Pachuca: Óscar Pérez, Hugo Rodríguez, Daniel Arreola, Miguel Herrera, Jorge Hernández, Rodolfo Pizarro, Dieter Villalpando, Hirving Lozano (Efraín Cortés 72), Jürgen Damm, Abraham Darío Carreño (Erick Gutiérrez 35′), Enner Valencia (Enrique Esqueda 66′).
The León vs Pachuca Gran Final matchup has provided a number of talking points over the last few days. Both teams are owned by Grupo Pachuca; the team presidents are father and son (Jesús Martínez Patiño, president of Pachuca; Jesús Martínez Murguía, president of León). Then there’s the fact that León is the 8th seed and Pachuca the 6th seed, and that both teams needed wins on the last day of the season to even make it into the Liguilla. Both of those issues have raised questions about the integrity of the competition.
But now the first leg is here. Now it’s time to look at the final from a strictly sporting perspective. The first leg is being held at León at 9:06 PM tonight (Telemundo and a live stream here).
León comes into the final after a dominant semifinal performance against Toluca. La Fiera won both legs by identical 1-0 scorelines, shutting out the Diablos Rojos home and away and snapping Toluca’s season-long home unbeaten streak while turning in two confident performances.
Pachuca reached the final due to the away goals tiebreaker after a 2-0 home win and 4-2 away loss against Santos Laguna. The second leg was not without its share of controversy, with two red cards having a significant effect on the game. Walter Ayoví will be suspended for this first leg due to his red card, while León will be at full strength.
Both teams boast lethal goalscorers; Pachuca’s Enner Valencia was the regular-season leading scorer with 12 goals, and he added another 4 in postseason play as well. León has spread their goals around a bit more, with Carlos Peña, Luis Montes, and Mauro Boselli providing most of the threat.
León has a mix of veterans and younger players in their squad, while Pachuca’s team has the youngest average age of any in Liga MX – and that’s with 41-year-old goalkeeper Óscar Pérez factored in. The Tuzos have done well with players from their youth setup (and in fact several León players, such as the aforementioned Luis Montes and Carlos Peña, were developed in Pachuca’s youth teams) but will count on Pérez’s experience and veteran presence to hold things together in the back.
The fact that the Clausura 2014 finalists, León and Pachuca, are both owned by Grupo Pachuca has led to persistent rumors that the final will be fixed or at the very least not quite aboveboard.
Both teams are doing their best to quell those rumors.
Andrés Fassi, Pachuca’s Sporting Vice President, declared, “They’re going to be games, first of all with a lot of happiness for the group, and secondly with the transparency that has characterized the group and with the autonomy that both [team] administrations have.”
He noted that talk of match-fixing and general suspicion of the game is coming from the media, not from fans or the general public. After seeing how hard both teams fought to make the final, it seems ridiculous to think either one would throw away their chance to lift the trophy.
Rodrigo Fernández, León’s Sporting Director, concurred.
“I think that yes, (it’s a lack of respect), because the players and the coaching staff work every day, and that people think that they could fix the games, please, I don’t think it’s like that and we’re going to try to show that, leaving everything on the field to make it valid… León is going to leave everything on the field, like they’ve done since Week 1, and we’re going to try to defend that title.”
León’s coach, Gustavo Matosas, also weighed in, saying that he would never accept one team telling another to let them win, and especially in the context of winning a title.
Matosas also defended multi-ownership, nothing that “What really matters is that the taxes and the players’ salaries are paid on time and that fair play is always respected. We’re two teams with the same ownership, but there’s independence.”
The semifinal between Santos Laguna and Pachuca left two players and Santos’s coach suspended. Walter Ayoví will miss the first leg of the Gran Final due to the red card he picked up in the second leg of the semifinal on Saturday night, while Oswaldo Sánchez was also given a one-game suspension for his red card in the same game. As Santos Laguna’s season is done, Sánchez’s suspension will carry over to the first game of the Apertura 2014.
As for Pedro Caixinha, it was clear that punishment was coming for his actions, which included entering the field of play to berate Hirving Lozano after the young Pachuca player was fouled; confronting a fan on his way off the field after he had been sent to the stands; and instigating a confrontation with Pachuca’s Enner Valencia in the tunnel after the game. Not only was the Portuguese coach completely out of control and out of line, but all of that came just a week after he had been fined for instigating a verbal altercation with Club América coach Antonio Mohamed.
This time, the Disciplinary Committee handed him a two-game suspension for his behavior.
No suspensions were handed out in the León vs Toluca semifinal.