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Copa MX Semifinal Recap: Monterrey defeat Pachuca on penalties to advance to the Copa MX final

Los Rayados give up a stoppage time equalizer only to come back and defeat los Tuzos in a penalty shoot-out

Monterrey v Toluca - Torneo Apertura 2018 Liga MX Photo by Azael Rodriguez/Getty Images

A dramatic game with a dramatic finish, as Monterrey defeated Pachuca on penalties to advance to the final of the Copa MX after an absolute rollercoaster of a match that featured a red card, a golazo from a young star, a stoppage time equalizer from a 37 year-old legend, and a save from Monterrey’s second-choice goalkeeper to give Jesús Gallardo the chance to send los Rayados to the final. Gallardo made no mistake and Monterrey will return to a Copa MX final a year after winning the Apertura 2017 Copa MX over Pachuca.

Pachuca struck first, with a goal from Miguel Tapias from a goal-mouth scramble. A corner kick wasn’t properly dealt with by Monterrey, and after a Pachuca player had headed the ball on, Tapias was in the right place at the right time to bundle the ball over the line with the Monterrey goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo hopelessly failing at the ball. Tapias appeared to be in an offside position when he struck the ball, but since the header had gone off of a Monterrey player before falling to Tapias, the goal correctly stood.

However, Monterrey would quickly strike back. Rogelio Funes Mori scored a remarkable headed goal from a free kick after he was poorly marked in the box. The free-kick was impeccably placed and Funes Mori directed his header exactly where it needed to go. A fine goal to tie up the match.

Funes Mori made is two and gave los Rayados the lead in the 21st minute as he started a move and finished it in style. He dribbled past a couple Pachuca defenders, played a through ball to Jesus Gallardo, and continued his run. Gallardo made a run into the box and then stopped and passed back to try and find Funes Mori. Tapias, who had scored the opening goal for Pachuca, was surprised to see a deflected pass come to his feet and instead of clearing the ball allowed it to bounce into space. Funes Mori pounced on the loose ball in the box and made no mistake, hammering the ball home to give Monterrey the lead.

A tiny bit of polémica would come into the match in the 42nd minute as Nico Sanchez got a straight red card for appearing to stamp onto a Pachuca player after missing the ball in a tackle.

It certainly didn’t look as if he intended to do damage or even stamp on the other player from the replay, as the tackle simply looked mistimed. However, he still made pretty significant contact with his studs up going into a tackle and that’s almost always a red card in Mexico, so Sanchez was dismissed without a lot of complaints.

And without yet another experienced defender, Monterrey gave up a equalizing goal right before half-time on a header in the area.

A Raul Lopez freekick didn’t beat the wall, but after some timely passing around in midfield on a broken set-piece, Pachuca’s Sebastian Palacios put a cross into the box that was headed home by Franco Jara.

The two teams would head into the half-time break level, and a rather tall task ahead of Monterrey, as they would be forced to play the entire second half down a man away from home.

Fears of Monterrey not being able to get something from this match were quickly erased in the second half as Daniel Lajud scored a second golazo in as many games. Lajud scored the winning goal over Toluca over the weekend with a remarkable goal after coming on as a substitute, and once again he provided a bit of magic to give Monterrey the lead.

Besides the well-taken goal from Lajud, the hero of the second half was absolutely Carrizo. The former Inter Milan, Lazio, and River Plate keeper put on a clinic in the second half, saving a number of certain goals from going in.

However, what will be most remembered from this match will not be the saves that Carrizo made, it will be the one that he didn’t make in stoppage time as Chaco Giménez struck a free kick into the back of the net in the dying embers of the match after Gallardo had unwisely fouled a Pachuca player right outside the box late in the six (!) minutes of stoppage time that given at the end of regular time.

And so, we were on to penalties. It seemed a bit unfair to decide this match from the spot, but who knows how many goals would have been scored in extra time, especially with fatigue starting to take hold of the Monterrey players who had been playing with 10 men for the entire second half.

Gallardo made no mistake on his team’s final penalty as los Rayados would emerge victorious and will head to the final, which is scheduled to be played on October 31st at the Estadio BBVA Bancomer in Monterrey.