Javier Cortés struck deep in second-half stoppage time to lift Pumas UNAM to a precious draw at Estadio Hidalgo.
Pachuca squandered a first-half spot kick when Enner Valencia blasted over the bar, but the home side deserved its lead when Dario Carreño turned home a rebound after 71 minutes. Cortés cleared off the line to repel a potential second before slicing home in the 94th minute to grab a share of the spoils for the visitors.
Cortés’ late goal altered the complexion of the tie ahead of the second leg in Mexico City. Pumas – even if injured stars Martín Bravo and Dario Verón are unable to feature in the next match – now enjoys the upper hand in the tie ahead of the decisive return affair.
Pachuca will wonder how it finds itself in this predicament after enjoying the better of the chances in this open encounter. The home side presented problems from the outset. Diego De Buen lashed his effort from distance off the bar after just three minutes. Hirving Lozano forced Alejandro Palacios to parry away his stinging effort shortly thereafter as the home side continued to press the initiative.
The visitors did their best to push out when possible and threaten on the counter. Dante López nearly opened the scoring from a header inside the goal area, but Rodolfo Pizarro’s recovery run and subsequent clearance thwarted the attempt.
Valencia spurned a chance to punish the missed opportunity when he stepped up to the spot nine minutes before the interval. Luis Fuentes created the danger when he stabbed Carreño from behind and watched the Pachuca forward tumble to the ground in response. Valencia accepted the responsibility from 12 yards, but he blazed his effort well over the bar to ensure the match entered halftime on level terms.
Pumas improved a bit after the interval, but Pachuca once again presented more of a threat. De Buen forced Palacios into another save at the near post as the home side pressed its advantage.
The intervention nearly paved the way for the visitors to claim the lead against the run of play. López created a wonderful opening for second-half substitute Daniel Ludueña, but the veteran playmaker diverted his first-time effort wide of the far post after 70 minutes.
Ludueña’s miss proved particularly painful after Pachuca transitioned quickly and finally tucked away the opener. Valencia dashed behind the line to latch onto a through ball and fired on goal. Palacios stopped the initial effort, but Carreño swept home the rebound to give the home side a deserved lead.
Pumas equalized in stunning fashion in second-half stoppage time moments after engineering a narrow escape. Cortés hacked a deflected effort off his own line in the waning stages of normal time and then underscored the importance of his save moments later. Ludueña rounded off a decent sequence by presenting Cortés with the opportunity to drive his first-time effort inside the far post and pull Pumas level ahead of the second leg at Estadio Olímpico Universitario on Saturday
Toluca goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera played his part as the Red Devils secured a scoreless draw in Tijuana.
Club Tijuana 0, Toluca0
Alfredo Talavera proved a sturdy obstacle between the sticks for Toluca as the Red Devils claimed a scoreless draw at Estadio Caliente.
Tijuana suffered from a dearth of precision in the final third on the night, but the Xolos also found Talavera in good form to deny the efforts they managed to turn on goal. Talavera repelled Richard Ruíz on a couple of occasions and threw Dario Benedetto off in the early stages to ensure the resolute visitors grabbed the upper hand ahead of the return leg on Sunday.
Xolos boss César Farías picked an adventurous group from the start and watched his players pile on the pressure from the outset. Benedetto should have opened the scoring after two minutes, but he clipped over the bar with only the onrushing Talavera to beat. His miss set the tone for a frustrating night for the home side.
Tijuana created several chances before the interval without taking any of them. Talavera played his part in the frustrations by stopping Ruíz inside the opening quarter of an hour. Benedetto then pulled well wide and squared invitingly toward the far post as the ambitious home side attempted to translate its advantage into tangible end product.
Talavera – still in the midst of trying to secure a place in Miguel Herrera’s 23-man squad – continued the frustrations after the interval. He positioned himself well to stop Ruíz’s near-post drive 10 minutes after play resumed. Edgar Castillo subsequently played a tempting ball across the face of goal only to see it skitter wide of the far post.
Farias threw Joe Corona and Herculez Gomez into the fray during the late stages, but their diligence could not help the Xolos procure a winner. The final result will force Tijuana to snatch a result at Estadio Nemesio Diez in order to progress to the last four.