It was the best and craziest of the Liguilla as Pachuca made a statement with a 5-2 win over Monterrey in the 1st leg of their Semifinal matchup. Monterrey complicated themselves greatly in a match where they went down to 10 players and missed a PK that would have tied the match late. Now they need to win by 3 goals at home on Sunday against an inspired Pachuca to make another final, a very tough hurdle. Pachuca is now in prime position to make their second consecutive final appearance after losing the last one in the Clausura 2022 against Atlas.
Monterrey started the match coming out with a more defensive starting 11 (including benching Rodrigo Aguirre) while Pachuca went all out to try to get a score knowing they needed a win. Romario Ibarra would get off a shot early that would force Monterrey’s goalkeeper Esteban Andrada to make a save. Then, off an ensuing corner kick, the ball went through every defender until Nicolas Ibañez got a wide open opportunity and he just had to chest it into the empty net for the 1-0. Off a free kick, Alfonso Gonzalez’s cross was volleyed by Stefan Medina, but Pachuca’s goalkeeper, Oscar Ustari, deflected the ball into the path of Hector Moreno, who got a header into the net to tie the match at 1-1. Pachuca would try to answer and they would do so shortly. A long clearance from Oscar Murillo turned into a great pass to Romario Ibarra, who got into the area and got a left-footed shot past Andrada for the 2-1. Monterrey tried to attack, but with a defensive lineup were having trouble generating offense. A pass into the area found Jesus Gallardo, but instead of getting off a shot, he tried to pass the ball and it was handled by Pachuca’s defense. Rodolfo Pizarro came close to scoring when his shot went just wide. Then, after Pachuca failed to clear a ball, it fell to Luis Romo, who surprised everyone by firing a left-footed shot from outside the area that would get past Ustari for the 2-2. While the shot was surprising, the goal wasn’t, as Monterrey had dominated possession after Pachuca scored. Pachuca went for a goal prior to going to halftime but Monterrey was able to handle them and took the tie to the dressing room.
Pachuca subbed out an injured Aviles Hurtado for Paulino de la Fuente for the start of the second half. The first play had Ibañez trying to block a ball off Andrada’s feet. A minute later, a cross into the area was headed by a wide open Paulino de la Fuente past Andrada for the 3-2. De la Fuente made an immediate impact by heading in one of his first touches of the match. A good cross into the area was not headed correctly by German Berterame, wasting a good chance. Pachuca subbed out Romario Ibarra and Victor Guzman for Marino Hinestroza and Javier Lopez. Monterrey subbed out Rodolfo Pizarro and Matias Kranevitter for Rogelio Funez Mori and Maximiliano Meza. After a harsh foul on Hinestroza, Erick Aguirre was booked. After going to VAR however, the ref would change the decision and showed Aguirre a red card, leaving Monterrey with 10 players on the pitch. Marino Hinestroza, who had just come in before receiving that foul, would have to be subbed out after being injured in that play and Roberto de la Rosa came into the match. Monterrey would sub out Alfonso Gonzalez for defender Cesar Montes as they were going to avoid another Pachuca score before the 2nd leg.
After getting a great pass in the area, it looked like Funes Mori wasted a great chance by shooting wide, but he was ruled offside anyway. Monterrey would sub out German Berterame for Sebastian Vegas, going all defensive. Pachuca came close to scoring when Luis Chavez got off a left-footed shot from outside the area that went just wide. Then, in an incredible play, Jesus Gallardo got into the area before running out of room when he got knocked down by Ustari, resulting in a PK. The play had no danger as it was going out, but Ustari made an ill-conceived move in going for the ball and in consequence, knocking down Gallardo. Rogelio Funes Mori stepped up to take the PK which was saved by Ustari. Then, in a scary play immediately after the save, Ustari would start coughing and appear to faint. He would regain consciousness and stay in the match.
Then, in after the corner kick, Erick Sanchez got past Monterrey’s defense and was brought down in the area, giving a PK to Pachuca. Monterrey players protested and forced the ref to go to VAR but it was a clear PK. Nicolas Ibañez stepped up to take the PK and scored with a right-footed shot for the 4-2. Another counter promised, but Ibañez had his shot deflected wide. Then, off a corner kick, the ball fell to Mauricio Isais, who got off a left-footed shot that was deflected, complicating the shot for keeper Andrada, who barely made a save that sent the ball off the post, leaving Nicolas Ibañez wide open to tap it into the net for the 5-2. Replays showed that Vegas, who came in to defend, allowed every player to be onside. Pachuca kept at it knowing they had Monterrey on the ropes, and Chavez got off a left-footed shot that went just wide. With the final whistle, Pachuca got the 5-2 win and have a foot in the final with Sunday’s match pending.
Pachuca had a great performance and have nearly booked their ticket to the final. In the altitude of Pachuca, they took advantage of Rayados going down to 10 players, and after a terrible momentum hit that was Ustari’s mistake, they regained momentum in not only saving the PK, but then getting a PK of their own. They went from a potential 3-3 to a 4-2 lead, completely changing the direction of the match. Now, Pachuca is primed to reach the final as they need to lose by three, giving them a great chance to sit and counter Rayados. Monterrey is now in deep trouble as coach Victor Manuel Vucetich’s defensive posture really hampered them, especially in the second half. They will have to go all out in attack from the start and without Erick Aguirre, which will make them less solid defensively. They’ll need their own classic performance on Sunday if they plan to complete the gigantic upset and snatch Pachuca’s ticket from them.