Chivas missed the chance to qualify with defeat to Monterrey
After weeks of uncertainty the 8 sides who will battle it out in La Liguilla were decided over a dramatic last round of regular season matches. Cruz Azul held top spot to round off an impressive season with a win over Pumas, who join them in the playoffs despite the loss. La Máquina set up an intriguing match with Apertura Champions, León while Pumas entertain Pachuca. Pachuca qualified in dramatic fashion with a late rally in Querétaro on Friday night. Three goals down with 20 minutes to play, Pachuca roared back to seal a 4-3 victory and secure their spot before the remainder of the weekend action. León too needed a spot of luck, as they earned the required win in Tijuana but still relied on other results to snatch the last available position. Toluca remained in second spot thanks to a draw at home to Club América, who themselves needed just the point to guarantee an invite to the party. Finally, in the last match of the round, Chivas failed to get the home win needed and in defeat to Monterrey saw their hopes dashed.
La Liguilla Ties
Cruz Azul V León
Toluca V Tijuana
Pumas V Pachuca
Santos Laguna V Club América
Querétaro 3 – 4 Pachuca
Los Gallos Blancos will be haunted by this for sometime as they were riding their five game winning streak into La Liguilla and cruising by three goals with 15 minutes to go, only to see their dreams shattered by an incredible comeback.
A brace from Ricardo Jesús and another by Camilo Sanvesso looked certain to book Querétaro’s place but Enrique Esqueda’s 75th minute strike set an extraordinary series of events in motion. Abraham Carreño pounced on a Edgar Hernández fumble to reduce the deficit in the 80th minute and when Esqueda headed in the equaliser from close range, there was only going to be one winner.
And so in the 90th minute, Carreño added his second of the night to complete the comeback and dramatically confirm a playoff spot.
Tijuana 1 – 2 León
León have certainly not been the force that they were during the Apertura but having crashed out of the Copa Libertadores in midweek, they got the win needed to reach La Liguilla and remain, at least, in theory on-course for back-to-back titles.
The Estadio Caliente is never an easy place to go but it was a thoroughly deserved victory for Los Esmeraldas. Nelson Maz fired in the opener from the edge of the box and a stunning Luís Montes strike on the hour mark doubled the lead.
Cristian Pellerano pulled one back for Los Xolos aided by a rare William Yarborough blunder in goal but León held on for the vital 3 points.
Cruz Azul 2 – 1 Pumas
Fresh from their Champions League triumph and against a Pumas side already guaranteed a place in the playoffs, this city derby did not have the intensity one might normally expect.
Roberto Monroy headed Pumas in front but late goals by Rogelio Chávez, thanks to a hefty deflection, and Mauro Formica reversed the scoreline and ensured La Máquina top spot. Pumas may have lost the match but a third-place finish and a tie against Pachuca next is a surprise following their utterly disastrous Apertura.
Veracruz 2 – 2 Santos Laguna
With Pachuca’s victory on Friday night, Santos knew that their qualification was already sealed but they closed their regular season with an entertaining 2-2 draw against Veracruz.
Cristian Borja gave Veracruz an early lead but saw Jesús Escoboza’s excellent finish on the spin cancel it out after 34 minutes. Oribe Peralta headed Santos in front on the hour mark only for Alfredo Moreno to again put the two sides level minutes later.
Tigres 2 – 1 Atlas
Atlas, like city rivals, Chivas knew that a final day victory would book a place in the playoffs but defeat to Tigres sees the season end prematurely for Los Rojinegros.
Hugo Ayala gave Tigres the lead with a header and although Jahir Barraza equalised, Atlas found themselves behind before the celebrations had ended. El Tri striker, Alan Pulido raced clear to slot in the winner and extinguish any hopes for Atlas.
Both sides face important close-seasons, as Atlas face another relegation battle next season and Tigres must improve on what has been a disappointing season.
Chiapas 5 – 2 Atlante
Chiapas ended their season with the thrashing of relegated, Atlante but it wasn’t big enough to qualify for La Liguilla.
A pair of Lucas Viatri headers put Los Jaguares firmly in command but just as it looked as though they would run away with it, Alberto García replied with a brace of his own to level things.
Given the fragility of Atlante they needed to get to half time but despite only 5 minutes remaining, they managed to ship a further two. Javier Mustafá headed in from a corner and Wilberto Cosme nodded in a fourth in stoppage time.
Colombian, Cosme grabbed his second of the game with 20 minutes left but knowing that with their goal difference, qualification was impossible, the victory serves as nothing but a morale boost ahead of pre-season.
Puebla 3 – 1 Morelia
Puebla climbed off the foot of the table with a 3-1 victory over Morelia on Sunday afternoon and with it brought to an end Morelia’s deeply disappointing season.
A first half goal from Matías Alustiza and a late goals by Mario de Luna and Carlos Sánchez cost Monarcas their place in La Liguilla and despite Óscar Fernández’s late consolation it has been a pretty dreadful campaign for Morelia.
Toluca 1 – 1 Club América
Both sides were already into the playoffs but El Turco Mohamed’s América will need to improve from their regular season form if they have aspirations of lifting the Clausura trophy.
Toluca took the lead after just 8 minutes when Raul Nava tucked in Edgar Benítez’s excellent cut-back. However, when Toluca lost Erbin Trejo after his second yellow card, América took advantage. Andrés Ríos volleyed a leveller for Las Aguilas with 10 minutes to play but as the game became a little stretched in the final minutes, Jesus Molina picked up his second yellow card too.
Chivas 0 – 1 Monterrey
Los Rojiblancos choked on Sunday afternoon inside the Estadio Omnilife. Knowing that a win would result in qualification, the home side failed to show up and their lacklustre performance was duly punished by Monterrey.
Antonio Rodriguez was responsible for keeping the teams level during a first half that could have seen Los Rayados home and dry. With such high stakes, Chivas improved after the break and there was a sense of urgency to their play but it was not enough and with 6 minutes remaining former Celtic defender headed in the winner. A cruel twist of fate sees a player on-loan from bitter rivals, América score the goal that ends the season for Chivas.