In sort of surprising fashion, Atlante won their 2nd ever Liga de Expansion title after defeating Celaya 3-1. Atlante weren’t favored after a 0-0 first leg tie at home, but they turned it up in Celaya to get a victory after two goals in the 2nd half of extra time. Atlante became the first team in the newish Liga de Expansion to get two titles after winning their first title last December when they defeated Tampico Madero in the Apertura 2021.
The game started with Atlante coming out offensively, with Daniel Lajud getting into the area a minute in and getting off a left-footed shot that was saved by Celaya’s goalkeeper, Guillermo Allison. Off a counter, Diego Gonzalez fired off a left-footed shot that was saved by Atlante’s goalkeeper, Humberto Hernandez. Later, a good shot from Gael Acosta was deflected wide. In the area, Ricardo Marin would attempt a bicycle kick that would force a great save from Hernandez. Then, a long ball into the area found Edson Partida, who then easily passed to a wide open Christian Bermudez, getting the ball past Allison to give Atlante the 1-0 lead. A great pass allowed Juan Pablo Dominguez in the area, but his right-footed shot was saved from close range by Allison. After a scramble, Marin fired a shot that Hernandez brilliantly saved. Lajud got into the area, but Allison dove and took the ball from his feet. A cross into the area found a wide open Gonzalez, who headed it well wide in a bad miss. A great play from Dominguez would allow him to get past two defenders and get off a shot that was brilliantly saved by Allison. The halftime whistle blew with Atlante leading in what had been an exciting match to that point.
The second half began with Celaya looking for that tying goal from the start. A minute into the half, Gael Acosta fired from outside the area and Hernandez could not to get to, as the score was quickly evened 1-1. Celaya would come close again off a freak kick when Diego Aguilar’s shot would go just wide. Atlante subbed out Francisco Reyes for Arturo Cardenas. Celaya subbed out Diego Gonzalez for Jhory Celaya. After a bad start to the half, Atlante had done enough to even the match, but weren’t creating chances. Celaya would sub out Diego Aguilar for Diego Medina. The home side came close to scoring when a cross turned into a shot that Hernandez would brilliantly save. Atlante would sub out Edson Partida for Daniel Lopez. While both teams tried, you could see the nerves creep in as they became extremely cautious, hoping to avoid a mistake that would cost them the title. Celaya then subbed out Gael Acosta for Andres Catalan. The ball then got into the area, but Mauro Brasil’s header was easily saved by Hernandez. The whistle blew and extra time or a PK shootout would decide who won the title.
Extra time kicked off with Celaya subbing out Mauro Brasil for Emanuel Herrera in a very offensive move. Atlante had a great chance when Dominguez got past his defender and had a 1 vs 1, but incredibly tripped just as he was preparing to shoot. Celaya kept trying to be offensive, but couldn’t get a shot on goal. The first half of extra time ended. In the second half of extra time, Atlante would sub out Christian Bermudez and Daniel Lajud for Maximiliano Garcia and Gerardo Lopez. Marin would get off a great free kick that Hernandez saved. Then, after a surprising play, a shot from outside the area forced a save from Allison. Garcia would come in and head the rebound staright to the post and then bounce right off Guillermo Allison, who sent the ball into the net in a clear own goal for the 2-1. Celaya now needed a goal and payed dearly for it. Off a counter, a 1 vs 1 would occur and Gerardo Lopez got past Allison to score into the empty net for the 3-1. Down 2 goals, it appeared Atlante had killed the match and gotten the title, although Celaya tried desperately to get to the area. A cross into the area almost got deflected into the net, but Hernandez was well placed to save it. It would be the last chance as Atlante would win the match and grab their second title in Liga de Expansion almost a year after their first one.
It was a deserved second title for Atlante, who finished 2nd place in the regular season and came back from the bad result that was a scoreless tie at home to grab the away win in Celaya. The home team had done well in the match, but Atlante were always a step ahead, going on the offense from minute 1. Yet the key was coach Mario Garcia making two substitutions in the second half of extra time. Maxi Garcia came in and got the header in the play that gave them the 2-1 lead. And the other sub, Gerardo Lopez, would score the 3-1 that finished the match and gave Atlante the title. Atlante will face the champions of the Clausura 2023 and hope things in Mexico change, making it possible that outcome decides who gets promoted to Liga MX.