Despite their inconsistencies during the regular season, Pachuca seized the advantage in their Torneo Clausura Semi Final First Leg against Santos Laguna last night in the Estadio Hidalgo. Goals from Diego de Buen and Hugo Rodríguez gave Los Tuzos a thoroughly deserved lead and perhaps if it had not been for the keen reflexes of veteran Santos keeper, Oswaldo Sanchez the lead could have been greater.
Pachuca started the game strongly with and even had an early penalty shout when the ever-dangerous and rampaging, Jürgen Damm was clumsily felled by Sanchez with the ball harmlessly going out of play. However, despite the vociferous home support the referee remained unmoved.
Pachuca’s pacy front line led by the league’s top scorer, Enner Valencia continued to probe and test the Santos defence but it was not complete one-way traffic as Oribe Peralta saw a header come back off the cross bar and with Óscar ‘Conejo’ Pérez rooted to the spot only the framework denied Santos an invaluable away goal.
With half time approaching the deadlock was finally broken but it was not from the exuberant running of Pachuca’s attack but from a slightly fortuitous set-piece. Holding midfielder, Diego de Buen’s well hit free kick took a slight deflection off the wall and with Sanchez seemingly caught with his balance on the wrong foot the ball flew past him into the bottom corner. An expected source perhaps but completely deserved given the dominance in the first half.
Pachuca remained on top after the break and just after the hour mark the lead was doubled and it came from another set piece. This time a corner from the left dropped to the feet of Hugo Rodríguez inside the 6-yard box and the defender managed to poke the ball into the net.
It was a strangely flat response from what is an experienced Santos side. The lack of an away goal makes their task all the more difficult but given their fightback in the last round against Club América, Pedro Caixinha will need to channel that spirit if they are to overturn this deficit.
Given Santos’ experience and talent and the pressure now on Pachuca’s young side, the tie is not over but Los Tuzos have made themselves firm favourites for a place in the Final.