America got a 4-2 victory over Pachuca, but failed to qualify because of the away goal rule after a game that will live in the memories of many because of how exciting and great it was. It was a game that is already a classic, as America battled and scored some great goals to take the lead and a pass before a terrible mistake gave Pachuca the second key away goal. America tried to get back their lead and would get close to one goal, but couldn’t get it and failed although they fought to the end. Pachuca will now face Cruz Azul in their semifinal series, while Puebla and Santos face each other in the second semifinal.
The first half started with America having Santiago Naveda take the place of the suspended Pedro Aquino. Meanwhile Pachuca this time came out with Romario Ibarra from the start instead of with Antonio Figueroa. In a surprising play, Ibarra came up big by getting the ball and getting past Luis Fuentes and Sebastian Caseres and then getting a right footed shot past America’s goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa. America tried to respond with a header that came close but went wide. They came close again off of a corner kick when a header by Caceres almost found Roger Martinez, but he couldn’t reach the ball. Then off a shot from Richard Sanchez, the ball hit Jorge Hernandez from Pachuca’s arm and the referee ruled it to be a penalty kick, which replays showed it to be the right call. Roger Martinez stepped up to take the penalty kick and his right footed shot through the center went past Pachuca’s goalkeeper Oscar Ustari for the 1-1 tie. America wasted a great chance when Sanchez had gotten a ball wide open in the middle of the area, but he failed to control the ball and it went right past his foot, losing the great opportunity. Then in an incredible play, Luis Fuentes made up for his mistake with a great goal. Fuentes volleyed a cross and got off a great one-bounce shot that went past Ustari for the 2-1 lead. With that goal, America was only in need of a goal to qualify. America looked to have turned things around momentum wise as Pachuca tried to respond but looked a little overwhelmed. Pachuca had a good opportunity off a corner kick when a cross from Hernandez found Gustavo Cabral but his header was luckily deflected by Caceres. The halftime whistle blew and although America had the momentum, the score remained with Pachuca going through should it remain.
The second half started with Pachuca subbing out Erick Aguirre for Victor Guzman, as they looked to be more offensive. America didn’t waste much time going on looking for that goal, and a Sanchez shot from outside the area was easily saved by Ustari. Then Roger Martinez got an incredible bomb of a shot from outside the area that went past Ustari and hit the post and went in for the 3-1. It was an incredible shot, although replays showed a slight deflection off a Pachuca player. That being said, the lead was totally deserved by an America team that was inspired since the early goal from Ibarra. Pachuca tried to respond and Roberto de la Rosa got a ball in the area, and his shot went straight to Ochoa’s arms. Then after a couple of bounces in the area, the ball fell to Felipe Pardo, whose shot was saved by Bruno Valdez in a great handed save. The problem though is that Guillermo Ochoa is the goalkeeper and not Valdez, so a penalty kick was given to Pachuca. Gustavo Cabral stepped up to take it and scored with a right footed shot for the 3-2 lead. America now needed to score two more goals to go through, and the situation did a complete 180 in the stadium. America immediately responded by subbing out Henry Martin and Luis Fuentes for Leonardo Suarez and Sebastian Cordova. Suarez immediately stepped up to take a free kick and his shot forced Ustari to make a save. America then subbed out Naveda for Federico Viñas, as they went all in trying to get the goals they needed. Pachuca meanwhile subbed out Romario Ibarra for Luis Chavez. Then off a free kick, Leonardo Suarez took a incredible shot to score another incredible goal past Ustari for the 4-2. Off a corner kick, America came close again to scoring when Bruno Valdez rose to head it, but Viñas and Jorge Sanchez failed to get to the header in what would have been an open net opportunity. Pachuca subbed out Felipe Pardo and Roberto de la Rosa for Miguel Herrera and Santiago Mosquera in a defensive move as they tried to hold on to their single goal lead. America came close again when a cross into the area almost found Martinez, but it was cleared. Off of a corner kick, Valdez got a wide open header but it went wide. America then almost got another header, but it was also cleared before Martinez got a head to it. America then made another substitution by subbing out Jorge Sanchez for Emanuel Aguilera, who could be better in the air with the number of crosses in the match. On the ensuing corner kick, America got to head the ball to Martinez, who then got a close range header that forced Ustari to make a majestic save in a game that was already a classic. Pachuca then subbed out the injured Jorge Hernandez for forward Roberto Nurse, hoping to get a counter to take advantage of America’s offensive moves. It almost paid off when a ball got cross into the area and Victor Guzman got a wide open header, but it was a terrible header and it went wide. The last minutes had America going all out and Pachuca coming up with heroic clearances as the game couldn’t get more exciting. Pachuca was able to hold on and after one of the best games in recent Liga MX history, America failed to qualify although they gave it their all.
It was a great series and a classic game, but in the end Club America fans will be disappointed in their loss at the quarterfinal stage. They must however take note that they battled to the end, and that new head coach Santiago Solari has built a team that is more than competitive for a title, although they need to fix various holes like at defense. Pachuca meanwhile has turned from a team that was in last place and a disappointment through most of the season into one of the hottest teams in the tournament. Yet tonight they were having trouble and after a comfortable lead coming in, where on the brink of elimination and should give thanks to an incredibly dumb play from America’s defender Bruno Valdez. They will have a tough task against Cruz Azul, although they have shown against America that they are on a roll and will be just as tough for a Cruz Azul side that struggled against Toluca and might not have survived a situation just as the one that America couldn’t.