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Pachuca defeat lackluster Monterrey to get to second consecutive Liga MX final

Monterrey needed to win by three goals to avoid elimination and instead ended up with a 1-0 home loss to seal Pachuca’s ticket to the final.

Monterrey v Pachuca - Playoffs Torneo Apertura 2022 Liga MX Photo by Azael Rodriguez/Getty Images

Pachuca finished booking their ticket to the Liga MX final after getting a 1-0 win over Monterrey in a widely expected result after their 5-2 win in the 1st leg. Monterrey went offensive from the start on paper, but their plan of going with three forwards never panned out as they barely came close to scoring one goal, much less the three they needed to turn things around. Pachuca will now go to their second consecutive Liga MX final and just as the previous one, they’ll host the 2nd leg when they face another surprising team in Toluca.

The match began with Monterrey going all offensive, starting three forwards in Rogelio Funes Mori, German Berterame and Rodrigo Aguirre. In less than a minute, Monterrey had their first chance when Aguirre got off a left-footed shot that was saved by Pachuca’s goalkeeper, Oscar Ustari. A longball into the area fell to Aguirre, but his left-footed shot was easily deflected into Ustari’s arms. Sebastian Vegas would get a great cross into the area that Funes Mori volleyed and almost lobbed over Ustari, but he made a great save. Aguirre would get off a left-footed shot that Ustari failed to handle and left it there for Funes Mori, but the keeper quickly got to him and blocked the shot off his boots. Pachuca weren’t getting good counters despite Monterrey going all out. Funes Mori got the ball in the area and fired off a left-footed shot that was easily saved by Ustari. A longball almost turned into a great chance for Pachuca, but Esteban Andrada was able to clear the ball before Romario Ibarra got to it. The halftime whistle blew and Monterrey’s opening offensive lineup hadn’t responded as expected.

The 2nd half began with both teams’ same starting 11, a surprise for Monterrey who hadn’t really threatened. A header by Funes Mori was easily saved by Ustari. Rayados then subbed out Luis Romo for Alfonso Gonzalez in a logical move that should have happened earlier. Twice Ustari would fumble balls that could have been dangerous when he failed to maintain a cross from Maximiliano Meza, but Pachuca defense cleared the ball. Gonzalez would later get off a left-footed shot that Ustari almost dropped after making the saving, but ultimately held on. Pachuca subbed out Israel Luna for Paulino de la Fuente. Another long range shot from Gonzalez was easily saved by Andrada. Monterrey subbed out Maximiliano Meza for Rodolfo Pizarro while the visitors subbed out Romario Ibarra for Javier Lopez. A cross into the area fell to Berterame, who from close range had his shot stopped from Ustari.

More substitutions as Monterrey subbed out Stefan Medina for Celso Ortiz and Pachuca subbed out Gustavo Cabral, Nicolas Ibañez and Victor Guzman for Jose Castillo, Ilian Hernandez and Aviles Hurtado. A cross into the area was volleyed by Beterame but hit the post in a move that had the stadium prematurely start the celebration firework effect. Gonzalez later got a header that hit the post, but the play had been stopped for a foul. A pass into the area found Funes Mori, but his close range shot went right to Ustari. Monterrey kept pushing for a goal but they looked out of ideas, if they ever had any. Hurtado got into the area and was dropped by Ortiz, which the ref whistled as a penalty kick. Years after missing a PK in that stadium in the famous final against Tigres, Aviles Hurtado took the PK and scored the 1-0. After the goal, Hurtado’s celebration wasn’t to the fans or Monterrey’s liking, and they let him know about it. A fight erupted as Rayados players scuffled with Hurtado and took out their frustration on him.

While almost all of Mexico expected an America vs. Monterrey final, it’ll now be the other two teams in Pachuca and Toluca. A day after Toluca shocked the extremely favorite America with a good defensive display, it would be Pachuca finishing what everybody expected after their solid result in the first leg. Pachuca were overly superior and on Sunday were able to correctly handle a Monterrey side that needed to be offensive from the start and failed miserably. Pachuca rarely got threatened, as Monterrey had no clear ideas and their plan of going with three forwards didn’t produce much danger, as nobody was able to create danger against a moderately defensive Pachuca side. To make matters worse, they took out their frustration against scorer Aviles Hurtado. Pachuca will now have another tough task, but should be slight favorites against Toluca. While Toluca have gotten great results, including knocking down 1st placed America, Pachuca are coming from losing the Clausura 2022 final and having basically the same team from that series. They’re still playing well and have the added plus of closing out the title series in their home stadium. Still, it will be a great series and even when they were the less popular teams in the semifinals, they did enough and have shown to be deserved finalists.