Pumas might have been lucky, but they were still able to get a 1-0 win in the first leg of their quarterfinal matchup against Pachuca. After an early goal by Pumas, Pachuca dominated against a Pumas team that defended well but failed to create much possession or danger. Pachuca meanwhile will be kicking themselves for not being able to make their dominant performance count on the score board. Pachuca will now have to win in Mexico City while Pumas will need to improve a lot at home even when they will go through with a win or tie.
The first half started with Pumas coming with their strongest lineup possible except at goalkeeper, where Julio Gonzalez took the place of injured Alfredo Talavera. While Pachuca also came up with what fans think is the best lineup except with Roberto Nurse as a forward, which was a recent move. Pumas had the first opportunity when Facundo Waller got off a left footed shot in the area, but it went wide. Pumas then made a great combined play which was finished with a great shot from outside the area from Favio Alvarez that went past Pachuca’s goalkeeper Oscar Ustari. It was a great goal and a great start for Pumas. Pachuca tried to answer and had a great opportunity when Erick Sanchez got the ball in the area but he tripped on the ball. It looked like Pachuca had a chance when a shot from Erick Aguirre forced Gonzalez to make a diving save, but they play got called off because of a foul. Pachuca then had a great opportunity when Aguirre was wide open in the area, but he fell as he tried to volley the shot and it went well wide. While Pumas had the better start, Pachuca had taken control of possession and were pinning Pumas in their area. Pumas finally got a shot off, but Alejandro Mayorga’s left footed attempt went wide. Pachuca had the best chance when off a corner kick, a header by a Pachuca attacker got cleared off the line by a Pumas defender. Pumas answered with a great cross by Juan Pablo Vigon, which was headed just wide by Alan Mozo. Then in the final minutes of the half, Erick Sanchez look to have fallen off a clash with Juan Pablo Vigon and the ref gave a penalty kick. Replays showed the contact was as soft as it could be but it was still given. Victor Guzman stepped up to take it but he took a horrible shot and the ball went wide in what could be seen as “divine justice”. The ref later blew the whistle and Pumas took the 1-0 lead to the halftime break.
The second half started with a sort of scuffle between the coaching staffs of both teams. Pachuca had a great chance at three minutes in when Guzman got a one-on-one against the keeper, but his shot went well wide. Pachuca went close again when off a corner kick, Oscar Murillo rose to head the ball, but it was deflected by Pumas’ defense. Once again Pachuca came close when Felipe Pardo got the ball in the area, but Johan Vasquez was able to deflect his shot for a corner kick. Pachuca made the first moves by subbing out Roberto Nurse, Victor Guzman, and Erick Sanchez for Roberto de la Rosa, Victor Davila, and Emmanuel Garcia. Pachuca look to have scored when Pardo got the ball in the area and got to a rebound for a shot to score past Gonzalez, but it was correctly ruled to be offside. Pumas then made their first substitutions by subbing out Juan Ignacio Dinenno and Facundo Waller for Andres Iniestra and Carlos Gutierrez. Pachuca looked to have another great chance when Pardo got a ball in the area, but he fell when he was wide open. Pachuca was now dominating as Pumas was pushed all the way back, depending on bad counter attacks. After getting his leg stuck on the ground, Favio Alvarez looked to have injured himself and had to leave the game in a stretcher. Juan Iturbe came into the game to replace him. Pumas almost gave Pachuca a free shot on goal when Julio Gonzalez came out and punched the ball straight to a Pachuca player but the header went wide. Pachuca subbed out Felipe Pardo for Antonio Figueroa. Julio Gonzalez would make up for his mistake before by making an incredible save when he deflected with his foot a ball Iniestra had deflected into the net. Pachuca had another chance when after a great play by Figueroa, he got off a long range shot that went over the bar. Later it would be Roberto de la Rosa who would waste a chance when he was alone in the area and his shot went well wide. Pumas had their first opportunity in a long time when Carlos Gutierrez almost got the ball in the area but Gustavo Cabral was able to clear the ball. Pumas then subbed in Gerard Moreno for Juan Pablo Vigon. In the last minute of the game, Pumas finally had a shot on goal when Iturbe got off a long range goal that forced Ustari to make a save. Seconds later the ref blew the whistle and Pumas had “stolen” the three points.
Pumas must count their blessings after their lucky win in Pachuca. The early goal helped Pumas a lot, but the rest of the performance left a lot to be desired. Pumas sat back most of the second half and Pachuca had most of the possession and should have done better up front against a Pumas team that just cleared the ball constantly. Still it was a key victory for the team and now on Sunday, all they need is to get a win or tie. Yet if they give another performance like the one on Thursday, Pachuca will have a lot of opportunities to get that ticket to the semifinals.