Skip to content

Mexico down to four as América, León, Santos, Toluca advance in playoffs

Dec 2, 2013, 12:50 AM EDT

Raul Jimenez, Carlos Salcido AP

Regular season champions Club América came into the Mexico’s Liguilla as favorites to win a second straight title, and after taking a 2-2 result out of Nuevo León last week, Miguel Herrera’s team was on track to make another semifinal. All they needed to do was hold serve today at Estadio Azteca, so when Mexican international Raul Jimenez’s diving header gave the Aguilas a lead in Sunday’s second half, everything was playing out as expected – even more so when Tigres’ defender Hugo Ayala was dismissed three minutes in the 55th minute. Up a man and a goal with just over half an hour to go, the team that cruised to the tournament’s top seed seemed destined to ease through the playoff’s quarterfinal round.

Yet three minutes after going down a man, Tigres were back in the match, a lightning counter attack down their left leaving Alan Pulido to beat Moises Muñóz from near the spot, making it 3-3. América’s better seed meant they had the tiebreaker, but with 32 minutes to play, Tigres had hope. One more counter, a set piece, or just randomness would see them past the superliders.

But just as often as we see goals like Pulido’s build momentum, we see then serve as wakeup calls. On Sunday, having been draw back into a tie with Tigres, the Aguilas  woke up and eventually killed off the bulk of the mach’s final 32 minutes. Still, 10 minutes from time, the favorites were still nearly seen out of the tournament, with Emmanuel Villa’s potential winner nailing the bottom of Muñóz’s post before staying out.

América should have put the match away long before. In the first half, they had their chances to go up through Rubens Sambueza and Jimenez and couldn’t convert. Before Villa threatened to snatch the tie from them, they could have restored their lead yet took the 3-3 scoreline into the final minutes, and beyond the chances, they are just a much better team. Few would have predicted the defending champions would come this close to a quarterfinal exit.

In the semifinals, the competition won’t be as forgiving, but just as Pulido’s goal may have served as a wakeup call, this tie may have opened the Aguilas’ eyes to what lies ahead. With only Muñóz’s woodwork saving them from an unlikely elimination, América may now realize how hard it will be to win back-to-back titles.

Elsewhere

Santos Laguna 3 (6), Querétaro 1 (3)

The Guerreros were given reason to fear last week when two late Isaac Romo goals reduced their three-goal lead to one, but although Romo would add a third in the second half in Torreon, Querétaro would never get back to even footing with second seed. Carlos Darwin Quintero, who scored twice in leg one, added late brace on Sunday, with Oribe Peralta’s opener ensuring Santos held the lead throughout Sunday’s second leg.

León 4 (7), Morelia 0 (3)

The drama Monarcas restored with two late goals in leg one had dissipated by the middle of Saturday’s second half, with three goals in a 13-minute span building on Hernan Burbano’s first half opener to give León the four-goal lead they’d carry until the final whistle.

Whereas León’s defense had been crucial throughout the team’s qualification stage, their goals allowed (14) second to only América’s, Gustavo Matosas’s team found goalscoring depth they never saw in the regular season. While Mauro Boselli’s two goals added to the 13 he found before the playoffs, Léon also got goals from Luis Montes, Elias Hernández (both last Saturday), Burbano, Matías Britos, and José Vázquez.

Set to face Santos in the semifinals, those scoring options will come in handy, should their defense prove as generous as it was in leg one against Morelia.

Toluca 3 (4), Cruz Azul 1 (1)

The lower (fifth) seed, Toluca all but sealed their victory last week, going up 3-0 in leg one. On Saturday, Christian Giménez’s 33rd minute penalty conversion brought La Machina within two, but Guillermo Vazquez’s team never got any closer. Despite finishing the season with four straight looses, Toluca eased into the semifinals, Pablo Velazquez’s 78th minute goal eliminating any doubt the Diablos Rojos would be caught late.

Now the league’s best regular season attack (33 goals ) meets the league’s best defense, though América’s defense will have to return to form if they’re to keep their hopes of repeating alive.

Latest Posts
  1. United States women overcame growing pains to peak when it mattered

    Jul 6, 2015, 3:06 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    The U.S. women always said they would peak at the right moment, and they did exactly that.

  2. Set pieces prove to be Japan’s undoing in Women’s World Cup final loss

    Jul 6, 2015, 2:41 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Japan came out shockingly flat in the World Cup final, conceding four goals in 16 minutes.

  3. Carli Lloyd proves she’s the Women’s World Cup hero she always knew she would be

    Jul 6, 2015, 1:54 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Carli Lloyd said she wanted to be the best in the world. On Sunday, she proved it.

  4. PHOTOS: Celebration abundant on social media following U.S. World Cup win

    Jul 6, 2015, 12:31 AM EDT

    Abby Wambach, USWNT — 2015 Women's World Cup Getty Images

    Take a look at the aftermath of the United States’ World Cup win over Japan.

  5. Mission accomplished: Abby Wambach gets her World Cup title

    Jul 6, 2015, 12:03 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Abby Wambach longed for a World Cup title for over a decade. On Sunday, she finally lifted the trophy.

  6. Nani relishing “new opportunity” with move to Turkish club Fenerbahce

    Jul 5, 2015, 11:10 PM EDT

    FBL-POR-LIGA-SPORTING-RIO AVE Getty Images

    Former Manchester United midfielder Nani is prepared for a fresh start in Turkey.

  7. United States wins third Women’s World Cup title, beats Japan on record-smashing day

    Jul 5, 2015, 8:51 PM EDT

    VANCOUVER, BC - JULY 05:  Carli Lloyd #10 of the United States celebrates scoring the opening goal against Japan in the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 Final at BC Place Stadium on July 5, 2015 in Vancouver, Canada.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Carli Lloyd’s hat trick and the United States’ win smashed just about every record in a huge win over Japan in the Women’s World Cup final.

  8. VIDEO: Lloyd seals amazing 16 minute hat trick with wonder goal from halfway

    Jul 5, 2015, 7:45 PM EDT

    Carli Lloyd, Lauren Holiday, Megan Rapinoe Carli Lloyd, Lauren Holiday, Megan Rapinoe

    Watch Lloyd score three times, as U.S. raced into a 4-0 lead inside the first 20 minutes.

  9. Inter Milan call out Fiorentina regarding Mohamed Salah’s transfer controversy

    Jul 5, 2015, 7:16 PM EDT

    Mohamed Salah has scored three times in his first four matches since moving to Fiorentina from Chelsea. AP

    Inter Milan released a statement defending itself as Fiorentina vice president Paolo Panerai criticized his rival in the midst of Mohamed Salah’s transfer situation.

  10. WATCH LIVE: U.S. take on Japan in Women’s World Cup final

    Jul 5, 2015, 6:14 PM EDT

    Abby Wambach, USWNT Abby Wambach, USWNT

    Watch the Women’s World Cup final live online. Kickoff at 7 p.m. ET.

  11. Hamburger SV sign defender Emir Spahic after Bayer Leverkusen terminated his contract

    Jul 5, 2015, 4:45 PM EDT

    Unknown Getty Images

    After having his contract terminated for violence with match security, Emir Spahic will play for Hamburger SV next season.

  12. Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta: Real Madrid won’t let Sergio Ramos leave

    Jul 5, 2015, 4:03 PM EDT

    Sergio+Ramos+Andres+Iniesta+15JUGlew7q5m Getty Images

    Despite Sergio Ramos’ transfer being heavily linked to Manchester United, rival Andres Iniesta believes the defender is going nowhere.

  13. Real Madrid and Brazil legend Roberto Carlos named manager of Delhi Dynamos

    Jul 5, 2015, 3:10 PM EDT

    Roberto Carlos Getty Images

    The Indian Super League continues to bring in the big names.

  14. Stephen Keshi sacked as Nigerian national team coach

    Jul 5, 2015, 2:22 PM EDT

    FBL-AFR-2015-NGR-SUD Getty Images

    After three stints managing the Super Eagles, Stephen Keshi is out once again.

  15. Women’s World Cup final tactics: Will United States get better of Japan?

    Jul 5, 2015, 1:35 PM EDT

    US midfielder Megan Rapinoe listens to teammates at a press conference in Vancouver on July 3, 2015, two days before the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup final against Japan.   AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM        (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The U.S. defense has been unbreakable, and Japan loves to keep the ball. Something has to give in the final.

  16. Fiji smashes Micronesia 38-0…Yes, 38-0

    Jul 5, 2015, 1:15 PM EDT

    Fiji v Uzbekistan: Group F - FIFA U-20 World Cup New Zealand 2015 Getty Images

    After making some tactical changes at the break, Micronesia held Fiji to just 17 second half goals.

  17. Javier Mascherano calls Argentina’s Copa America loss “torture”

    Jul 5, 2015, 12:21 PM EDT

    FBL-COPAM2015-ARG-CHI Getty Images

    After another brutal loss in a major tournament final, Argentina’s Javier Mascherano couldn’t explain what went wrong.

Featured video

PST Extra: Done deals & transfer gossip