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Chivas battle back but can only get a 1-1 tie against inspired Leon

Leon came off with a key away goal as they tie 1-1 against Chivas.

Chivas v Leon - Playoffs Torneo Guard1anes 2020 Liga MX Photo by Refugio Ruiz/Getty Images

Chivas came back from a disappointing first half but couldn’t quite defeat a very lively Leon, with the game ending in a 1-1 tie. With a great performance from Joel Campbell, Leon was the better team for most of the first half as Chivas coach Victor Manuel Vucetich seemed to have the team be more concerned in defending itself against Leon. The strategy failed however, making Chivas have to attack in the second half, which they did. Still it was not enough for the win and Leon could’ve just as likely picked up the win and was the better team overall, in prime position to get to the final. Chivas will now to win or get to score twice in the second leg to get to the final, a very tough hurdle.

The first half started with Chivas coming out with a very similar starting lineup to the one from the return leg against America, the only exception being Fernando Beltran for COVID-19 positive Isaac Brizuela. Leon meanwhile came with a very strong lineup, including Costa Rica international Joel Campbell from the start. Chivas started out going on the offense, but Leon was able to handle it well and the match was very even at the start. Both teams were very cautious as they sat back and tried not to make mistakes. It took until the 21st minute to get the first shot off the game, a long range shot from Luis Montes that a a defender deflected into a corner kick. Chivas almost had a good opportunity on a corner kick when a header almost allowed a wide open Cristian Calderon to get to the ball, but he was just a step too slow and couldn’t get to it. As the match progressed, Chivas looked to be the most defensive team as Vucetich’s plan seemed to be to stifle Leon’s offense, which Chivas was doing a good job at but at the expense of their attack. Yet for all the caution, at the first good play, Chivas floundered. Campbell made a good move to get past the Chivas defense and left Gilberto Sepulveda on the floor, then finding Fernando Navarro in the area who got off a right footed shot past Chivas keeper Raul Gudiño for the 1-0 lead. Leon later came close again when a great cross by Montes found Emanuel Gigliotti, but his header went just wide. Leon had another good chance but Navarro’s shot was deflected into a corner kick. The halftime whistle blew and Leon had clearly been the better team against a Chivas team who failed to react after getting scored on.

The second half started and with Chivas needing to react. Vucetich subbed out Fernando Beltran and Oribe Peralta for Alexis Vega and Jose Juan Macias, both coming out from injury and playing their first minutes in the Liguilla. The impact was almost immediate when in the 49th minute, Macias got the ball in the area and made a great pass to Uriel Antuna, who then got dropped by Leon’s keeper Rodolfo Cota for a penalty kick. Macias then stepped up to take the PK and placed the right footed shot past Cota for the 1-1 tie. Chivas came close to taking the lead when Vega made a good cross that Antuna failed to get to well and his volley went wide. Leon made their first substitution when they replaced Gigliotti with Nicolas Sosa. Still Chivas continued with a good counter attack that finished with Vega getting a right footed shot that forced Cota to make a good save. Chivas was easily playing the best they had in the game, and were the better team. Still Leon was always dangerous and came really close to scoring after a cross by Montes to Sosa was deflected into the path of Jean Meneses, but his close range shot also was deflected. Leon suddenly started to attack better and they had two chances, with a shot from Sosa in the area that went wide and a long range shot from Pedro Aquino that also went wide. Leon had a great opportunity when after making a play in the area, and William Tessillo lobbed the ball over Gudiño but Jesus Molina was able to clear the ball near the line and before a Leon player could get a free header. Chivas ended uo having a great three-on-one counter but the ball got away from Antuna, in what would have been a great chance to score. With Leon once again being the better team, Chivas made a change by subbing out Antuna for Jesus Ricardo Angulo, which was a surprise after being injured in the first leg Quarterfinal match against America. Later because of an injury, Gilberto Sepulveda had to leave the game for defender Omar Briseño. Leon had a great opportunity when Campbell made a great cross into Sosa’s head but his header crashed into Briseño’s hand, but the ref ruled it to not be intentional and thus not a penalty kick. Chivas then came as close to scoring on a counter when Miguel Angel Ponce got a ball in the area and his shot went past Cota, but defender Jaine Barreiro made a great diving slide to clear the ball inches from the goal line, in an incredible play. Leon answered with a great cross by Meneses that Nico Sosa incredibly failed to even connect with. Later it was a shot from Meneses that forced Gudiño to make a save and give a rebound straight to Angel Mena, but his shot was incredibly saved by Gudiño in a great play by him and an incredible miss by Mena. Chivas made their final sub by subbing out Cristian Calderon for Luis Olivas. The ref would blow the whistle to give Leon a valuable tie. Chivas is still in it, something that didn’t look as likely at halftime.

Leon had at times a great performance and overall was the better team, although Chivas improved a lot in the second half. Joel Campbell gave one of the better, if not his best, performances in Mexico and was a the best player in the game for either side. It would could be argued that had Angel Mena and Nicolas Sosa (who has been lackluster all season) played better, they would have won the game. Chivas meanwhile improved a lot after their injured strikers Macias and Vega came in, and they will hope they are able to play all 90 minutes to have an opportunity in Leon. They also need a healthy Angulo, who didn’t make as much of an impact, probably being the most injured of all three. Chivas will need to win or get at least a 2-2 tie. Leon will be favored as they had the better squad but everything can happen and as at times Chivas came close to scoring and getting the win, something that might pressure them if it happens in the second leg. Still they must be liking the result and their position prior to the final.