Liga MX Liguilla: Club León ousts Cruz Azul, Santos overcomes Club América
Cruz Azul 2 – Club León 2 – series ends 3-3 on aggregate, León advances on away goals
León kept its title defense alive by mounting a two-goal comeback and ushering La Máquina out of the Liguilla on away goals at Estadio Azul.
Cruz Azul looked destined for a place in the last four after Mariano Pavone and Mauro Formica struck inside the first 21 minutes. The pair of early goals handed the home side a comfortable cushion on aggregate, but Mauro Boselli reduced the arrears by poking home shortly before the interval. Luis Montes then turned home the critical goal just before the hour to send León through.
The final result offers yet another instance of Cruz Azul falling short in the Liguilla, but it also provides León with the opportunity to continue its title defense after entering this return leg with significant work to do.
Pavone increased the load by opening the scoring after just four minutes. The veteran Argentine schemer once again floated into the right spot and received the benefit of his movement when Mauro Formica forced William Yarbrough into a smart save. Pavone swept home from the close range to extend the home side’s lead.
Another intelligent piece of play led to Cruz Azul’s second on the night. Marco Fabián cut inside from the left and spotted Formica open on the right side of the penalty area. Formica collected the feed and promptly dispatched it past Yarbrough to double the advantage on the night and place the champions in a rather significant hole.
León manager Gustavo Matosas responded by inserting Eisner Loboa for Matías Britos and watching his side respond immediately. Loboa played a part in the initial reply when he nodded through for Elías Hernandez to pull back in front of goal. Boselli popped up in the right spot to poke home five minutes before halftime.
Montes completed the response and placed León ahead in the tie when he rolled home the equalizer on 59 minutes. Carlos Peña played the ball into a good spot for Montes to continue his slicing run toward the top of the penalty area. Montes maneuvered onto his left and then tucked his effort inside the near post to stagger the home side.
Cruz Azul manager Luis Fernando Tena chucked Christian Giménez into the mix shortly thereafter in order to restore the lead. Giménez came closest to snatching the critical third five minutes before the end, but he thundered his drive off the cross bar to leave La Máquina to trudge off the soaked Estadio Azul field to conclude the campaign.
Rubens Sambueza's late goal wasn't enough to send Club América through to the last four.
Santos Laguna 3 – Club América 1 – series ends 6-6 on aggregate, Santos advances on away goals
Santos Laguna scored twice in the final 10 minutes and survived a late push by América to secure a place in the last four at Estadio Corona.
América defender Topo Valenzuela prodded into his own net to complete Darwin Quintero’s enterprising run and open the scoring just before the half-hour. Ribair Rodriguez placed his side ahead in the tie by poking home from close range after 84 minutes. Andrés Renteria added a fine third with his solo run and finish three minutes later, but Rubens Sambueza drew a goal back in the 90th minute to arrange a grandstand finish.
Santos managed to see out the remainder of second-half stoppage time to book a place in the last four, while América will wonder how it managed to squander its edge from the first leg given the balance of play on the night.
The home side threatened early through Oribe Peralta, but Quintero prompted the opener after 28 minutes. The lively forward placed the América defense under pressure with his jinking run on the left side of the penalty area and eventually surged through the line. Valenzuela lunged to halt the run only to see his extended foot direct the ball inside the far post to open the scoring.
Valenzuela soon departed the fray as América boss Antonio Mohamed returned to the back four that proved so useful during the second half of the first leg at Estadio Azteca. The alterations subdued the home side for much of the second half, but a late corner kick ultimately provided the chance Santos needed to turn the tie.
Oswaldo Alanis created the danger by rising high above his marker and turning his resulting header on frame. Moisés Muñoz made a good save on the initial attempt, but he received no help on the rebound. Ribair found himself in the perfect spot at the right time to prod home the critical second.
Renteria added a much needed gloss to the proceedings with his enterprising third after 87 minutes. The second-half substitute drifted into a good position on the left and waited for the ball to find him on the break. Once he found it, he slid into shooting position and smashed his effort into the far corner to provide the third goal his side would ultimately need.
América pulled a goal back when Sambueza and Luis Mendoza combined to create a simple Sambueza finish in the 90th minute, but the late efforts – including a frantic late corner kick in the final seconds – could not stop Santos from dumping them out of the Liguilla.