Here are your five conclusions from the Liguilla Semifinals in the 2018 Liga MX Clausura.
Late goal in the First Leg was a momentum-switcher for Toluca
To put it simply, Xolos de Tijuana played arguably one of their best games of the season in the First Leg, only to see everything crumble in the final play of the game. There was no question about it. Diego Cocca’s men imposed all the conditions of the match and dominated Liga MX’s best regular season team. When everything looked like it was going to end 2-0 in Tijuana’s favor, Fernando Uribe scored in added time to give the Diablos Rojos a crucial away goal and all the momentum in the tie. As the second leg showed, the goal proved to be costly, and a real shame, too, for a team that seemed to be peaking at just the right time.
Tijuana’s defense let them down
The irony, of course, is Tijuana’s greatest strength all season was their defensive discipline, but on Sunday in the Second Leg, it was the one factor that let them down. Even before the first sending off to Luis Angel Mendoza, there was simply no answer for Fernando Uribe from the Tijuana defense. If Gustavo Bou and his team were the ones that imposed conditions in the First Leg, it was Fernando Uribe and Toluca in the Second. Combined with a superb game from 23-year-old Leonel Lopez, Toluca were able to take complete control of the match through Rubens Sambueza and Pablo Barrientos. With Tijuana eventually going down to nine men, a Luis Chavez golazo gave them hope, but the rest of the game ended up being piece of cake for the Diablos Rojos, with Uribe signing off with a hat-trick and handing the hosts a place in the Liga MX Final.
Santos reach Liga MX Final in style
Santos Laguna took care of business on Sunday, successfully fending off a Club América rally to book their ticket to the Liga MX Final with a 6-3 aggregate victory. Behind a 4-1 win in the First Leg, Robert Siboldi’s men came back from two goals down early in the Second Leg to take away all the air from the Estadio Azteca and las Águilas’s dreams of winning another title. Tactically, Miguel Herrera’s team was outmatched in the First Leg, and every time Santos Laguna got the ball, it looked like they had a genuine opportunity to score. Miguel Herrera will likely get a pass, but questions have to be asked as to why a team like América looked in pre-season form in the middle of a Liga MX Semifinal.
Club América desperately need new signings
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from Club América’s elimination is that they desperately needs a goalscorer and some defensive signings. It is no surprise as to why las Águilas have been linked to several strikers in recent months, including PSV striker Luuk de Jong. On the other hand, Club América’s defenders seem to have a tendency to commit early, and you could see it first hand against Santos Laguna. Whether it comes down to the coach or the players is up for debate, but there often seems to be a sense of disconnection between the defensive line and the rest of the team. Long gone are the days when Club América were praised for having a sturdy defense. A left back is needed, sure, but maybe a defensive leader too?
Liga MX Final could be all about strategy
If there can be any sort of criticism towards Santos Laguna is that coach Robert Siboldi let his team fall into this anarchic state vs. América in the First Leg. It all worked out fine and Santos Laguna got a 4-1 victory, but the story may have been different against a more clinical team. Against the Diablos Rojos, it is likely Hernan Cristante goes for more a of a direct approach, which means Santos may have to opt out of making it a back-and-forth affair like against América. On the other hand, with players like Sambueza and Barrientos, the Diablos Rojos can also hold their own technically, while Santos Laguna also don’t mind going long to Djaniny Tavares to move the ball forward. This all makes for an intriguing affair tactically, and a lot of what happens in this Liga MX Final will come down to what the coach’s decide is their best strategy to win.