The Rayados came out attacking as they looked to make their home-field advantage count, and Rogelio Funes Mori had a very early chance saved by Nahuel Guzmán. Tigres did not sit back to defend, but pressed forward themselves, and Luis Quiñones had a good chance in the 12th minute but his attempt was high.
Originally scheduled for Wednesday night, the first leg of the semifinal series between América and León was rescheduled to Thursday due to the state of emergency in Mexico City caused by pollution due to brush fires in the area; the game has now been moved out of the area entirely at the recommendation of local authorities.
Rather than the Estadio Azteca, América will now “host” the first leg in Querétaro’s La Corregidora, located about 140 miles away. Toluca’s Estadio Nemesio Diez, which is only about 40 miles away, was considered as the first option, but it too is in an area affected by the air pollution.
The semifinals are a total goals, aggregate score series; away goals are tiebreakers. Should the aggregate and away goals both be tied at the end of the second leg, the higher seed will advance.
All times Eastern, home team listed first.
Superlíder León continued their good form by beating Tijuana 5-2 on aggregate to easily advance, while América split their series with rivals Cruz Azul, but triumphed 3-2 on aggregate to become the lone lower seed to move on.
Tigres UANL and Monterrey both advanced based on their position in the table after aggregate draws in the quarterfinals; Tigres tied Pachuca 2-2, while Monterrey tied Necaxa 1-1. The two will now face each other as the Liguilla produces another Clásico series.
La Máquina came out attacking, knowing they needed at least two goals to overturn América’s first-leg lead. José Madueña had an early chance go just wide, while Jonathan Rodríguez found himself in dangerous positions multiple times, but was unable to convert any of his chances.
La Fiera were in a comfortable position going into this game after picking up a 3-1 away win in the first leg; the Xolos needed to win by three to move on, and León had the best defensive record in the league this season. The hosts could have sat back and let the first leg result be decisive, but instead they came out looking to win and they soon had the opening goal.
Like the first leg, Pachuca took the lead but couldn’t hold it as Tigres UANL came back for a 1-1 draw. That left the series tied 2-2 on aggregate, and with away goals level at one apiece, Tigres advanced due to the higher-seed tiebreaker.
The onus to score was on Pachuca from the beginning; a 0-0 draw in this second leg would have sent Tigres through. The Tuzos were measured in their efforts, though, and even as they pressed forward they remained organized in the back. Tigres were unable to do much to trouble Alfonso Blanco, while at the other end Nahuel Guzmán made several good saves to keep Tigres ahead in the series.
Cruz Azul lost the first leg, but thanks to their away goal and their position as higher seed, they are still in a reasonable position to advance: La Máquina needs a two-goal win to move on to the semifinals. They were not a very high-scoring team in the regular season, though, amassing 26 goals in total; they won by a 2+-goal margin just four times in 17 games. Nevertheless, that’s what they need to do in this one. The pressure is on, especially since Cruz Azul will not want to be knocked out of the playoffs by their Clásico rivals.
Saturday’s clash between these two will be a winner-takes-all affair after a draw on Wednesday night. Tigres, with both an away goal and the advantage of being the higher seed, are in a more comfortable position; in addition to a win, they would go through with either a goalless draw or another 1-1 result. The universitarios lost just once in El Volcán in the regular season, and drew just once as well; their other six games all ended in victories.
On the other hand, to say Pachuca did not travel well would be an understatement; the Tuzos did not win a single one of their nine away games, picking up four draws and five losses on their travels. They also managed just six goals on the road, while allowing 21. Pachuca will need a much better result here if they want to move on to the semifinals.
The quarterfinals are a total goals, aggregate score series; away goals are tiebreakers. Should the aggregate and away goals both be tied at the end of the second leg, the higher seed will advance.
First leg results:
Pachuca 1-1 Tigres UANL
Tijuana 1-3 León
Necaxa 1-0 Monterrey
América 3-1 Cruz Azul