The hosts started the game off better, but they were unable to capitalize on their advantage while they had it, with Memo Ochoa making several good saves to keep América from falling behind. Then VAR review saw Puebla come off worse for wear twice; first, when Jesús Zavala’s would-be goal was determined to have been stopped by Ochoa on the line, and then when a penalty call was changed to a free kick just outside the box.
Neither team could find the breakthrough in this one as Tijuana and América played out a 0-0 draw. The result keeps the Xolos unbeaten at home this season – but winless in two overall – while the Águilas remain unbeaten overall.
The visitors quickly found a good chance through Giovani dos Santos, but he couldn’t beat the onrushing Manuel Gibrán Lajud and the opportunity went begging. At the other end, Miler Bolaños forced a good save out of Memo Ochoa as the two teams traded chances.
Tigres started the game off strongly, but they lost some momentum after captain Guido Pizarro had to leave the field with an injury after just 10 minutes. América got stronger as the game went on and they created several good chances but couldn’t beat Nahuel Guzmán. Memo Ochoa made some good saves of his own at the other end as both goalkeepers shone in the first 45.
The first-half was a hard-fought affair, with more fouls – 18 of them – than goal-scoring chances. Monterrey looked more dangerous in possession, but when the opening goal came, it was for the visitors. Late in the half, Henry Martín played Federico Viñas in on goal; with Marcelo Barovero beaten, the unfortunate Carlos Rodríguez mis-hit an intended clearance to send the ball into his own net. His own-goal made it 0-1 for the Águilas in the 44th minute.
América earned a 2-0 victory against Monarcas Morelia in the second leg of their semifinal series to level the aggregate at 2-2. With away goals not coming into play, the Águilas earned a place in the Gran Final thanks to the higher-seed tiebreaker.
América came into this one needing to score at least two goals, and they went on the attack from the beginning. The breakthrough came in the 37th minute, when Renato Ibarra’s shot from outside the box took a deflection off the defense and beat Sebastián Sosa to make it 1-0 (1-2 aggregate).
América reached the final after comebacks against Tigres UANL in the quarterfinals and Monarcas Morelia in the semis, while Monterrey got there by upsetting superlíder Santos in the quarterfinals before beating Necaxa in the semis.
Due to Monterrey’s participation in the 2019 FIFA Club World Cup, where they’ll be representing the confederation after winning the CONCACAF Champions League, the Liga MX playoff schedule had to be adjusted.
The Rayados will host the first leg on December 26th, while América will host the return leg on December 29th.
While both teams finished the first leg of this semifinal series with 10 men, Morelia had a numerical advantage for most of the second half and they made it count as they grabbed a 2-0 victory against América.
Morelia came out attacking as they looked to make their home-field advantage count, and they had some early chances, most notably when Edison Flores tested Memo Ochoa in the 8th minute. Then, in the 16th, Rodrigo Millar played Luis Mendoza in behind the defense; he drove towards goal and then slid the ball across the top of the six-yard box for Fernando Aristeguieta, who stabbed it home.
Tigres seemed to have the upper hand going into this one: a 2-1 aggregate lead, two away goals, and their positioning as the higher seed if it came down to that tiebreaker. But América came out attacking and before long they had the series turned on its head.
América seemed a little disjointed at the start; although they had more possession, they were unable to do much with it. Guido Rodríguez and Richard Sánchez seemed out of sync in midfield, which led to difficulty linking up with the attack.
América locked up their spot in the playoffs in their final regular season game – they have a bye next week – with a 0-5 thumping of Veracruz. The result gives the Águilas three wins in their last four, while the Tiburones Rojos are winless in two.
The visitors were the better team from the beginning and it didn’t take long for their dominance to pay off. The usually assured Sebastián Jurado gifted them the opening goal in the 18th minute, when he came out to punch away a corner and missed the contact; the ball fell to Bruno Valdez, who put it away to make it 0-1.