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Liguilla match recap: Puebla F.C. 1 (1), Santos Laguna 0 (3)

Santos punches their ticket to the Final, holding off Puebla to end the series 3-1 on aggregate.

Puebla v Santos Laguna - Playoffs Torneo Guard1anes 2021 Liga MX Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images

Santos came into the final leg of the semifinal series against Puebla with a 3-0 lead and 90 minutes to protect. They executed their gameplan to near perfection, allowing just one goal and not ever allowing Puebla to seem like they were in the series.

In the opening minutes of the match Puebla tried to get some sort of footing but Santos’ defense was strong and didn’t allow for much. Santos has the first good chance in the third minute when Juan Ferney Otero hit a shot on frame, but the contact wasn’t all that good and the ball slowly rolled in on Antony Silva, and the goalkeeper easily picked the ball up. In the sixth minute, a goal kick from Santos resulted in the first goal kick chant of the evening. On the resulting play, Alan Cervantes hit a shot that froze Antony Silva but wound up going just wide of the far post. Santos did well to disrupt and pressure Puebla when on the ball without ceding too much space behind the defense.

In the 24th minute Puebla had a decent chance where Santiago Ormeño tried an acrobatic kick that put it on frame but Fernando Gorriarán was there to clear the ball out of the box. Then in the 25th there were shouts for a penalty as Carlos Orrantia and Daniel Álvarez went in for a ball in the box but replays showed the contact was clean and no foul was given. In the 30th minute Eduardo “Mudo” Aguirre hit a shot from distance and while it had much more on it than Otero’s earlier attempt, the result was the same.

In the 31st Diego Valdés was free and clear in the box and got a header but it hit the post and bounced out. At the other end in the 39th, Santiago Ormeño got on the end of a corner kick and went to shoot but it was blocked by Cervantes to remove the danger. As the clock went past the 45 minute mark, Puebla turned the ball over deep and Diego Valdés took a shot from relatively close range that Antony Silva was forced to save.

The second half started much the same way the first had ended. Puebla needed points but couldn’t quite put together any offensive pressure. Santos had a decent opportunity in the 51st minute when a good run by Mudo Aguirre was met by an even better defensive play by George Corral. Then at the other end Puebla broke through when Christian Tabó made a great cross along the turf to Ormeño, and Ormeño got a foot to it and beat Carlos Acevedo to draw one back for the home side.

Santos kept their composure and kept players back, not giving Puebla much in the way of chances for a quick double. Santos kept possession of the ball, making smart decisions and not rushing any more than they had to. Everything Puebla threw at them, they seemed to have an answer for. Players made smart reads on passes on defense, and on offense took their time in setting up play. In the 84th minute, Carlos Acevedo was called to make a fine save on a shot, tipping it over the bar.

As the end of the match drew near, the clubs did their best to further their respective causes. Puebla players went down in the box with the slightest touch, and Santos players took as much time to restart play as possible and made sure contact fouls were noticed by the referee. Deep in stoppage time Amaury Escoto picked up a straight red card for following through with a body check with an elbow, sparking a large, angry gathering of players. Somewhere around the 10th minute of stoppage Lucas Jaques hit a shot from distance that Acevedo had to make one final save on before time expired. A very short time later, referee Fernando Guerrero blew his whistle for the final time on the evening, sending the Santos fans in the stands into an eruption of celebration. They’ll face Cruz Azul in the Liga MX Final.

Puebla F.C.: Antoni Silva; Salvador Reyes, Juan Segovia (Lucas Jaques, 46’), Israel Reyes, George Corral; Daniel Aguilar (Maximiliano Araújo, 46’), Daniel Álvarez (Gustavo Ferrareis, 75’), Javier Salas; Omar Fernández (Guillermo Martínez, 71’), Santiago Ormeño, Christian Tabó (Amaury Escoto, 55’)

Santos Laguna: Carlos Acevedo; Omar Campos, Matheus Dória, Félix Torres, Carlos Orrantia; Alan Cervantes, Fernando Gorriarán; Ayrton Preciado (Andrés Ibargüen, 65’), Diego Valdés (Roni Prieto, 84’), Juan Ferney Otero (Jesús Ocejo, 75’); Eduardo Aguirre (Hugo Rodríguez, 74’)

Scoring: Puebla F.C. - Santiago Ormeño (53’); Santos Laguna - None

Disciplinary: Puebla F.C. - Amaury Escoto (Red - 90+8’); Santos Laguna - Carlos Acevedo (Yellow - 86’), Andrés Ibargüen (Yellow - 90+9’)