The game started off fairly evenly, with neither team able to dominate. There were scattered chances at both ends, but few clear-cut opportunities, with the rhythm of the game frequently interrupted by fouls: a total of 12 yellow cards were issued during the game, 10 to players and one to each coach.
The knockout rounds of the 2019 Gold Cup begin this weekend with the quarterfinals. Mexico won Group A with a perfect 3-0-0 record and will now take on Costa Rica, the Group B runner-up, on Saturday night in Houston.
Costa Rica opened their Gold Cup with a pair of victories against Nicaragua and Bermuda before suffering a surprise loss to Haiti in the final Group B game, while Mexico beat Cuba, Canada, and Martinique in Group A play.
Mexico and Costa Rica last met in the quarterfinals in the 2015 Gold Cup, where El Tri advanced in extremely controversial circumstances after being awarded a penalty kick in the final minute of stoppage time in the second half of extra time; Andrés Guardado scored the PK to eliminate Costa Rica.
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
Cruz Azul came out attacking and they had a penalty shout in just the second minute as Agustín Marchesín came off his line to stop Orbelín Pineda, getting the ball but also bringing down the player; then, when the keeper went to gather the loose ball, he brought down Yoshimar Yotún. But neither the referee nor VAR called a penalty and play continued.
The game started off well for the visitors, who put pressure on Necaxa and had a few chances through Avilés Hurtado and Dorlan Pabón. They couldn’t find too many clear chances, though, although Hugo González came close to gifting them a goal after mishandling a free kick in the 20th minute. However, the keeper was able to recover and grab the ball out of the air before it made it over the line. Continue reading