Santos Laguna needed a win to ensure a spot in the playoffs, while Puebla needed to avoid a loss to guarantee their continued presence in the first division. The two sides split the spoils with a 2-2 draw that keeps La Franja in Liga MX and keeps Santos in the top eight, although the Laguneros are not yet guaranteed a Liguilla berth.
Santos Laguna took the lead through Javier Orozco just before the half-hour mark, with Carlos Izquierdoz playing in a cross that “Chuletita” headed past Rodolfo Cota. That goal sparked a fire underneath Puebla, since their relegation rivals Leones Negros were winning 0-1 against Cruz Azul. The only possible scenario that would have seen Puebla relegated – a loss combined with a Leones Negros win – was in effect.
However, everything changed just before halftime, when Alfonso Tamay pounced on a rebound to level the game at 1-1. After the ball bounced off a Santos defender, it fell to Tamay, who was unmarked at the far post. The Laguneros called for offside, but it wasn’t given and the goal stood.
From that point on, Puebla was in control of the relegation fight. Luis Robles headed home a corner kick in the 51st minute to give the visitors the 1-2 lead, which seemed likely to seal Leones Negros’ fate.
However, a 73rd minute equalizer by Andrés Rentería ensured a nervous end to the game, as once again a single goal would change everything. Rentería’s goal was a stunning piece of marksmanship, as the Colombian scored from an incredibly acute angle, just managing to squeeze the ball inside the post.
The equalizer came just minutes after Puebla’s leading goalscorer, Matías Alustiza, had been subbed out of the game, and “Profe” Cruz responded by sending on another striker, Hérculez Gómez.
Santos threw everything forward in search of the game-winner that would guarantee them a spot in the playoffs, while Puebla worked frantically to prevent the goal that would return them to the Liga de Ascenso.
There was some stoppage time drama when a fan ran on to the field and struck referee Fernando Hernández, but the pitch invader was quickly removed by security and the game was able to resume. Puebla was able to hold on throughout the four minutes of stoppage time, and they celebrated euphorically at the final whistle, with their presence in the first division guaranteed for at least one more year.
With the 2-2 draw, Santos reaches 25 points while Puebla reaches 20.
Santos: Agustín Marchesín, José Javier Abella, Carlos Izquierdoz, Néstor Araujo, Adrián Aldrete (Edson Rivera 71′), Diego Hernán González, Jesús Molina, Néstor Calderón (Alonso Escoboza 52′), Andrés Rentería, Djaniny Tavares, Javier Orozco (Luis Mendoza 62′).
Puebla: Rodolfo Cota, Alberto Acosta (Mauricio Martín Romero 59′), Michael Orozco, Facundo Erpen, Óscar Rojas, Flavio Santos, Luis Noriega, Luis Robles, Alfonso Tamay (Hérculez Goméz 80′), Luis Gabriel Rey, Matías Alustiza (Francisco Torres 70′).