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Liguilla: Lots of good soccer in the midst of controversies

The semifinals’ first legs are in the books and we’re only hours away to know who the finalists of Liga MX Femenil will be.

América vs Chivas Imago 7

Either of the Liguilla semifinals could’ve been a final. Both were clásicos, and neither match during the first leg disappointed the fans. Mexico keeps doing things right when it comes to their women’s league, even putting the América vs. Chivas game on national TV and TUDN. Besides that, 30,274 fans attended the game while 36,509 went to El Volcán stadium to watch Tigres vs Rayadas.

América vs. Chivas

The Águilas welcomed Chivas at the Azteca stadium on Friday. In the stands, Guadalajara fans made their team feel at home even though they were playing in enemy territory.

Under heavy rain, coach Ángel Villacampa’s team imposed their style of play against an opponent that seemed a little handcuffed. Licha Cervantes is coming from an injury that sidelined her for many weeks, and couldn’t make feel her presence on the field in this match.

América’s backline did a great job containing Jocelyn Montoya and Carolina Jaramillo, limiting the times they could carry the ball on both wings and send crosses to the box.

Speaking of Jaramillo, she committed a hard foul on Kimberly Rodríguez before minute one but didn’t get carded. América’s fans raised their voices about it on social media, asking the league to suspend her for the second leg but with no news about it during the weekend, it seems like she won’t be disciplined at all.

Chivas will be happy about it since she’s one of the key players for them. Despite Chivas's loss in the first leg, Jaramillo drove América’s defense crazy. Andrea Pereira, Jocelyn Orejel, and Kimberly Rodríguez got carded because of her, and that’s a testimony itself about how hard it can be to keep her contained.

But Jaramillo’s kick that went unnoticed by the referees wasn’t the only controversial play in the match. Near the end of the game, Scarlett Camberos’ hair was pulled and neither the referee nor VAR noticed it. Funny enough, Camberos got suspended in the last season’s Liguilla quarter-finals for the same foul, and in the following match, América lost to Pachuca. The foul was deemed as ‘violent conduct’ and the suspension happened after the game. Nonetheless, in this case Jaqueline Rodríguez who was the one who pulled Camberos’ hair, hasn’t been disciplined (so far) and it doesn’t seem like she will be.

Controversies aside, the home team made great work in the 90+ minutes of the game. Coach Villacampa got it right, and once Camberos figured out how to get rid of her mark, things started to flow for the home team. She was the one who made the assist for Betzy Cuevas and then she got to score her goal in the second half, and Nikki Hernández scored goal number three.

América had a very good match where everyone played their part right, although Chivas got one back when the game was almost over. And if there’s something that goal proved, it is that Villacampa’s team has to work on the way they close games out as well as on set pieces, since the goal came from a corner in the second minute of stoppage. And in this regard, goalkeeper Itzel González hasn’t been the best. She showed that aerial balls and aerial duels are not her forte.

So what happens next? Chivas will welcome club América at Estadio AKRON today at 8 PM ET. The game will be on NBC Universo in the US, FOX Sports in Mexico, and Chivas TV worldwide. If Guadalajara gets at least a draw in the aggregate score (win tonight by two goals), they will advance to the big final. But if América wins, they will go through.

Tigres vs. Rayadas

The atmosphere at Tigres’ stadium was unmatched on Friday night. 36,509 fans were present at El Volcán, bringing it for their team in a game nobody wanted to miss.

The Amazonas hit first, with a great ball sent by Uchenna Kanu to Stephany Mayor. She headed it and Tigres was already winning only four minutes into the game.

But not everything was good news for the home team in the first half. Kanu, who was making a significant difference on the right wing, had to be subbed out after a number of plays with 50/50 balls and some tough fouls.

Crosses were doing a lot of damage to Rayadas backline and with Kanu out, Tigres started to construct their attack moving the ball from the center to the left, with Jackie “La Maga” Ovalle sending dangerous balls to the box. The plan worked. Mayor scored her brace after a terrible giveaway when Rayadas wanted to build from the back and Ovalle made the assist.

And just like that, Tigres finished the first half winning 2-0, with Rayadas not looking good. It was hard for them to connect passes and La Maga was a nightmare they had to deal with but simply couldn’t stop.

Monterrey started the second half trying to play their game, and with a Tigres team a little bit more under control. A key moment came in minute 63 when Mayor stepped on Mariana Cadena’s ankle and the referee, after checking VAR, decided to sent her off. Only three minutes later, Greta Espinoza received a yellow for a handball near the box and Rayadas got a free kick. Set piece specialist Rebeca Bernal executed it, and the ball got deflected off the wall and sent goalkeeper Cecilia Santiago to the wrong way, drawing one back for Rayadas.

The game finished with Tigres with the upper hand, but they’re going to have to play the second leg without one of their main stars. The club appealed Mayor’s red card issued to her, but with no success. They also tried to get Rayadas’ goalkeeper Alejandría Godínez suspended for some gestures she made toward Tigres fans, but the league decided against it, instead issuing an undisclosed fine.

It will be a great second leg between these two teams. This time the scenario will be the BBVA Stadium, and Tigres will have to play not only without Mayor, but also Kanu will be unavailable due to the concussion protocol. And let’s remember that Nayeli Rangel's season is over due to injury.

History shows that coach Eva Espejo has never been able to beat the Amazonas since she became Rayadas’ head coach (4D, 2L). Will she do it this time? Since both teams play a possession style of game, the team that controls the ball will be on the high ground for sure. Another key factor will be Christina Burkenroad, since the goal scorer didn’t show up much in the first leg. Aylin Avilez tried to test goalkeeper Santiago from distance, but Tigres’ defense was on point when blocking shots.

What does Rayadas need to get to the final? A win by at least one goal or draw in the global score (2-1 to Tigres favor). If they do the latter, they will go through since they finished higher on the table.

The game will be on FOX Deportes in the US and FOX Sports 2 in Mexico, and will kick off at 10:06 PM ET.