We already knew it back on Thursday night upon the conclusion of the first leg, but I have to say it just because of it becoming official last night: Pachuca are the Apertura 2022 Liga MX champions. They are the fairest and most deserving winners, outplaying all three of their rivals faced in the playoffs, as well as having yet another stellar regular season performance following their league-leader performance from last season, despite losing the final to Atlas.
It was a continuation of the first leg match, with Pachuca dominating chance creation and overall approaches. Overwhelming is the word that best fits what Tuzos were to the Diablos Rojos during the entire 180 minutes of the series. By the 13th minute, Volpi had already made 3 key interventions on Pachuca attacks that could’ve ended in goals had it been another keeper standing under the three posts.
Somehow, someway, despite being erased through the first 20 minutes of the match, a long ball from Baeza to Carlos González saw the tall forward graze the ball off the side of his head perfectly for Raúl López’s arrival, who fired a missile that Ustari didn’t deal with appropriately, making the aggregate 5-2. Oh if only Leo Fernández converted that stoppage time PK in the first leg, a much more interesting story it would’ve been.
But Almada didn’t flinch. He knew his side were in complete control and it had been but a mere exception. And he wasn’t wrong. Pachuca kept pressing, forcing heroic defensive dives and deflections from Toluca defenders, just to keep them three goals down. Even a mistake in the 41st minute by Jean Meneses conceded a PK to the home side (which inexplicably took 5 minutes by VAR to confirm), and not even that could crack open the door, as Nico Ibáñez’s shot was kept out by a diving Volpi.
Toluca’s extra-human effort to take their slim second leg lead into the half would come to an abrupt end however, as a Volpi deflected cross went right to Víctor Guzmán, who bounced his left-footed shot in off the far post. That goal (coincidentally making the aggregate score 6-2) was officially game, set, and match at that point, as Toluca hadn’t seen the light of day.
Two more goals in the second half (with potentially many more if not for Volpi and the defenders) were just a lot more icing on the cake than what it needed, but who would ever complain about more icing, right? In the end, the differential between these two was abysmal, with Pachuca garnering 22 total shots (8 on target) to Toluca’s mere 8 (2 on target). It wasn’t even close. Pachuca were closer to scoring 8 more goals than Toluca were to scoring 2.
If anything can be said about the match, it’s frustrating as a fan in general to see such ineptitude on the VAR. The PK called in the first half was a no brainer, considering the logic Liga MX has followed all season long. Even if Meneses did impact it with his head first, the fact his outstretched arm interrupted its path just made it to be a no doubter. How the ref could stand there for 3 minutes until he was finally summoned to review it is beyond me. If they’re not sure in the booth, they should call the ref immediately and become efficient. Just a ridiculous waste of time.
Other than that, everything played out as expected, with Ambriz and company simply no match for Pachuca. And just like that, third time’s a charm for Uruguayan manager Guillermo Almada, who finally won his first Liga MX title. And it was long overdue. Arguably the most consistent manager over the past couple years (3 finals appearances out of the last 4), he was finally rewarded. Whether he’ll be considered for the Mexico NT once the World Cup passes remains to be seen. I still think it’s too soon, but you never know. Maybe that’s the kind of manager El Tri needs to shake things up at this point.
For Pachuca fanbase’s sake (as well as Liga MX’s), I hope Grupo Pachuca decide to conserve their current squad, keep building upon it to try and create a real powerhouse in Liga MX, and give the usual top teams some extra competition. However, if they decide to follow their philosophy, we could be seeing the selling of at least a couple key players within the coming months to capitalize on this title (possibly Erick Sánchez and Luis Chávez?), just as they did after their last title in 2016, selling Erick Gutiérrez, Rodolfo Pizarro, and Hirving Lozano not long after.
Whatever the case, kuddos to Pachuca for a superb season and proving you don’t need a team filled with superstars to be champion. All it takes is a team who knows how to compliment itself along with a manager who can project his style of play and make his players buy in. Hope to see this team’s core sticking around for a while.