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Pumas and Saprissa battle to a tie in Round of 16 first leg in CONCACAF Champions League.

Pumas took the lead twice, but Saprissa came back each time to get a 2-2 tie.

FBL-COSTA RICA-MEXICO-CONCACAF-SAPRISSA-PUMAS Photo by EZEQUIEL BECERRA/AFP via Getty Images

Pumas became the only Liga MX to not start with a win when they twice gave up the lead to get a 2-2 away tie against Saprissa. In a tough environment in San Jose, Costa Rica, Pumas twice had the lead but defensive mistakes allowed the Costa Rican side to get the tie. Still Pumas sit in a comfortable position as they await at home against Saprissa, as they hope to get the revenge from the 2005 CONCACAF Champions Cup final.

The first half started with Pumas coming out with a strong lineup, although they rested their Brazilian contingent and went with Juan Ignacio Dinenno and Washington Corozo on top. Pumas had a good opportunity off of a corner kick when Dinenno got to it from close range but headed it well wide. Pumas surprisingly had been more dangerous, but Saprissa had defended well. Then the first opportunity for Saprissa had Cristian Bolaños getting into the area, but he was dropped by Efrain Velarde although no penalty kick was given. The after a cross into the area, Jimmy Marin jumped to get a header but it hit the post. In the first two attacks by the Costa Rican side, they had been a lot more dangerous than Pumas was in the previous 15 minutes. Saprissa started to get more possession and be more dangerous. Off of a free kick, a cross into the area was incredibly back heeled by Bolaños and hit the post in what would have been a great goal. Saprissa had been the better team, but against the run of play, Pumas struck. After a throw in, Alan Mozo was able to get a cross into the area and Washington Corozo got past his defender and got a header from close range past Saprissa’s goalkeeper Aaron Cruz for the 1-0 lead. It was a great opportunity taken by Pumas just after the local side had their best minutes in the match. A shot from Dinenno in the area forced Cruz to make a good save, but he was called offside so the play wouldn’t have counted had it gone in. Saprissa answered when David Guzman got off a shot but it went wide. After a good play was totally wasted by a terrible pass from Dinenno, Saprissa got a counter attack into the area with Bolaños before Nicolas Freire brought him down. The ref didn’t give anything but then stopped the match to go to VAR and gave a penalty kick to Saprissa, although it was a little dubious. Cristian Bolaños stepped up to take the penalty and his right footed shot slipped through the fingers of Pumas’ goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera for the 1-1 tie. It was the last play of the half and a momentum killer for Pumas, as they went into halftime with the tie instead of a match they could have controlled.

The second half started with Saprissa hoping to get a lead to take to Mexico, while Pumas hoped to do the same. Pumas started well but wasted two chances by bad runs from Cristian Battocchio and Corozo. In an incredible mistake, Mozo made a back pass that instead was a pass to Darixon Vuelto, who then easily got past Talavera but his shot was brilliantly saved by Freire in a great slide off the line. Pumas subbed out Cristian Battocchio (who once again was awful) and Washington Corozo for Favio Alvarez and Jose Rogerio. Saprisssa subbed out Marvin Angulo for Jaylo Hadden. Pumas came real close to scoring off a corner kick when Dinenno got off a header that hit the post. The ball was cleared, but Pumas crossed it into the area before the ball fell to Arturo Ortiz, who got off a great shot close range shot that was brilliantly saved by Cruz. After another mistake from Pumas’ defense, Vuelto got a shot that was easily saved by Talavera. It would be his last chance, because he would be subbed out for Victor Medina. Then after a great play from Rogerio, who won in the middle, he made a great pass to Juan Ignacio Dinenno, who got off a great right footed shot past Cruz for the 2-1 lead. It was a great moment for Dinenno, whose face had a lot of relief after starting the year in a big slump. It looked like a Pumas had the momentum, but Pumas would once again give it away. A shot from a Saprissa player was terribly handled by Talavera, who left the ball right in the feet of Cristian Bolaños, who scored the tap in into the net to make it 2-2. Bolaños, a veteran player, had struck again with Talavera making a terrible mistake. Pumas subbed out Leonel Lopez and Sebastian Saucedo for Jeronimo Rodriguez and Higor Meritao. Saprissa countered by subbing out Jimmy Marin for Walter Cortes. Pumas had a good opportunity when Efrain Velarde got a shot from outside the area, but the ball was deflected safely by Saprissa’s defense. Both teams went at it in the final minutes, but there were no clear chances and the match remained tied.

Pumas wasted a great opportunity to get an away win after twice taking the lead against the most popular Costa Rican side, in a tough venue as is Ricardo Saprissa stadium. While before the match a tie would have been a good result, the way the game played out meant that because of defensive mistakes, Pumas gave back the tie more than Saprissa gained them. Normally stalwart, Alfredo Talavera had a bad mistake on the second goal, while Pumas had given up a great counter attack that turned a great offensive opportunity for Pumas into the play where a penalty was given to the Costa Rican side. Still Pumas should be favored at home to get through to the Quarterfinals, but they will need to improve because Saprissa might strike first and as the Costa Rican national team showed, they can play well defensively to limit and frustrate the Liga MX team.