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Toluca 1, Pachuca 5: consummated title

There are still 90 minutes to go, but Toluca face a more than impossible task against arguably the most orderly team in the league.

Toluca v Pachuca - Final Torneo Apertura 2022 Liga MX Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images

It’s not common you say this after the first 90 minutes of a final’s two-legged tie, but after yesterday’s result, there really is no other option: it’s over. It wasn’t just bad; it was horrific. It’s as bad as saying there was only one team on the pitch for the first 70 minutes. That team was of course Pachuca. They came out firing on all cylinders, looking like FC Barcelona or Bayern Munich, completing plays with exquisite passes and firing off high quality shots that found their way to the top corner of the goal - whether they went in or not. Just a level of consistency you don’t tend to see from a Liga MX side.

It was of course accompanied by Toluca’s nonexistent defense. When you have wide open lanes to slice the ball through, wide open headers on goal, same number of attackers than defenders in a certain area of the box, yeah, I’d call that defense nonexistent to say the very least. Not to mention, it happened in a FINAL.

And it really becomes the perfect storm of sorts, because on one side you have a totally mentally focused squad, zoned in and performing at arguably the highest level they have all season, while on the other, you have a nervous, leaky, low-effort, and porous squad who were run over in every aspect of the match. Yeah, that would lead to a 5-0 deficit in 53 minutes played alright. Even if Sanvezzo and Navarro had converted their wide open chances, I don’t feel it would’ve substantially changed the outcome. If anything, it would’ve given Almada extra motivation to keep pushing and Pachuca probably hang 7 or 8 on Volpi instead of just 5. It was an ‘all-you-can-eat’ buffet yesterday, literally.

And it would’ve been worse had Almada instructed his players keep the pressure on. He clearly ordered his troops to stand down and made sure they did, as Pachuca slowly yielded possession and ball initiative to the home side, almost daring them to come at ‘em. They also lost clarity on the offensive end.

He sent this message loud and clear with his two 56th minute subs, taking out Romario Ibarra and Paulino de la Fuente, two key impact players in yesterday’s assault. Five minutes later, he took off Víctor Guzmán, who among other key actions, had fired a long distance rocket off the top right corner of the post just seconds before NIco Ibáñez scored Pachuca’s 5th. And finally, took out his star striker in Nico Ibáñez in the 72nd minute.

Now, to Almada’s credit, he never became more defensive or retreated his lines. His four subs were practically position for position and he continued attacking. Unfortunately for him, the new pieces didn’t have the vision or clarity their predecessors did and they lost all of their offensive punch, failing to threaten Volpi’s goal again, despite play creation.

It took them a good 15 minutes to gather themselves, but Toluca eventually did and started creating chances with a clearly acommodating Tuzos, who weren’t about to risk anything with a 5 goal lead. Two clear opportunities in a matter of 3 minutes, and the second finally ended in Jordan Sierra’s goal. Not to mention, Leo Fernández’s missed penalty in stoppage time. So yeah, Toluca missed their chance to get a couple more on the board, but Pachuca could’ve pressed for more as well.

The bottom line is, if the above video is the defensive intensity you come out playing with in a final, then you plain and simple don’t deserve to win. Toluca’s leaky and lazy defense earned them this thrashing and will now have more than just a mountain to climb to even try and get back in this thing. Let’s not forget the Diablos Rojos are facing the 3rd best defense in the league (15 goals conceded). Ambriz and company have to score 4 to just send this thing to extra time, not to mention having to do so on the road.

A lot can happen in 90 minutes of football, but the intensity and order Pachuca have shown throughout the playoffs, coupled with how unready Toluca’s players seemed yesterday (leaky defense and off target offense), a comeback in this one is just totally out of the question. There’s just one team in this fight. On Sunday night, Pachuca will be celebrating their 7th Liga MX title, and they deserve it.