By DANIEL PRICE
Reigning champions Club Leon hope to become the first Liga MX team to win both the Apertura and Clausura championships in a single season, and their dreams remain on track after they beat league winners Cruz Azul on away goals following a 3-3 tie on aggregate.
The first game ended 1-1 on Wednesday night when Jose Cardenas grabbed an equalizer after Mariano Pavone’s early goal, meaning Cruz Azul held a slight advantage heading into this weekend’s fixture.
The hosts raced to a two-goal lead in the second leg, as both Pavone and Formica scored inside the first 20 minutes. A heavy thunderstorm hit not long after and Leon took advantage of the tricky conditions, with Boselli and Montes scoring either side of half-time to give them the lead for the first time in the tie.
Cruz Azul couldn’t find a third goal, with second-half substitute Achille Emana wasting their best chance when he volleyed over the crossbar from close-range in stoppage time. The exit is cruel on Cruz Azul – they dominated the regular season and beat Leon by 13 points. The result once again calls into question the FMF’s decision to scrap seeding and replace it with the away goal rule for deciding a tie.
Here’s a closer look at the rest of the Liga MX quarterfinals:
CLUB AMERICA SUNK IN 6-6 DRAW
Club America’s season is over after a 6-6 draw on aggregate with Santos Laguna. Both legs were full of action, with America battling back from 3-1 down to win the first leg 5-3, only for Santos to respond by winning the second leg 3-1.
America won the 2013 Clausura, but in truth they have rarely looked like a side capable of winning this year’s Clausura. Finding themselves 3-1 down with just half an hour remaining in the first leg at the Azteca, it looked as though they were already beaten, but a Raul Jimenez hat-trick inspired a fantastic comeback and they led 5-3 going into the second leg in Torreon.
In the second leg Santos were the better side and were rarely troubled by their visitors. A Juan Valenzuela own goal set them on their way, but they weren’t assured of their passage until Ribair Rodriguez and Andres Renteria added the second and third goals in the final 10 minutes. Rubens Sambueza pulled one back for America in added time, but it was a mere consolation and the former champions crashed out.
TOLUCA TRIUMPANT, TIJUANA TERRIBLE
Second-place Toluca are now the favorites to lift the title after knocking out Club Tijuana. The first leg in Tijuana ended in a dreary 0-0 tie, and given Tijuana’s poor away form it was always going to be a challenge for them to leave La Bombonera as victors.
In the second leg, Antonio Ríos Martinez put the hosts ahead after half an hour, but Dario Benedetto’s strike just after the break wiped out their lead and briefly put Tijuana ahead on away goals. Miguel Ponce restored Toluca’s advantage on the hour mark, before Edgar Benitez wrapped up the win in the dying moments.
Toluca will now face Leon in the semifinals.
PACHUCA RAMPANT IN SECOND LEG
Pachuca beat Pumas UNAM 5-3 on aggregate after winning the second leg 4-2 in Mexico City on Sunday night. The two teams drew the first leg 1-1 in the Estadio Hidalgo after Javier Cortes scored a dramatic wonder goal in the 94th minute to cancel out Abraham Carreno’s opener, but Pumas failed to build on their slim advantage and capitulated in front of their own fans.
In the second leg, Enner Valencia twice gave Pachuca the lead in the first half, but twice they were pegged back in by Pumas. Valencia then sealed his hat-trick just after the interval before Hugo Rodríguez added a fourth with half an hour still to play. The score could have been more embarrassing for Pumas if Walter Ayovi had converted a late penalty, but Alejandro Palacios made a good save.
Pachuca will face Santos in the semifinals.
Here’s a full look at all the results from the Liga MX quarterfinals:
Club America 5, Santos Laguna 3
Club Leon 1, Cruz Azul 1
Pachuca 1, Pumas UNAM 1
Club Tijuana 0, Toluca 0
Cruz Azul 2, Club Leon 2
Santos Laguna 3, Club America 1
Toluca 3, Club Tijuana 1
Pumas UNAM 2, Pachuca 4