In what was a rather uneventful match that clearly saw Pachuca dominate approaches as well as the most dangerous opportunities, a disastrous tackle on the part of CB Óscar Murillo ended the Tuzos’ dreams of further advancing in the continental tournament that ultimately could’ve earned them a spot in next year’s Club World Cup. That tackle was ensued by a called PK in favor of visitors Motagua that was converted, resulting in the home squad’s demise.
The first half was a rather boring one if I’m being honest. Yeah, Luis Chávez hit a missile to the crossbar early on and ‘La Chofis’ had a wide open header that he mistimed, bouncing the ball softly to Motagua keeper Licona. But other than that, Pachuca dominated possession and had multiple approaches that just weren’t well finished. That was also complemented by a Motagua club who were happy to sit back and wait for Tuzos to come at them. They would’ve been happy to take it to a PK shootout.
The second half had a different feel to it; Pachuca came out clearly on the offensive and were decided to try to go in front. Within the first three minutes, they’d already sent in a couple very dangerous crosses that could’ve resulted in a goal if not for a little more luck. The Honduran side continued to defend with 9-10 men in their box on some occasions.
However, the home side’s first real scare of the match came in the 61st minute when Gaspar Triverio rose to the air to beat Arango to a header that whistled by Ustari’s post. But that was it on their part. Pachuca kept on pressing (and missing), with countless chances resulting in either blocked attempts that went out or shots that Licona was able to deflect away from goal.
That much was true up until the 73rd minute, when Figueroa’s great cross found an outstetched and oddly contorted Illian Hernández who put the ball in superbly off the post. With around 20 minutes remianing, the 1-0 lead, Hernández nearly scoring again on the next play, and a seemingly harmless Motagua in front of them, this series didn’t just appear to be, but was in fact, in the bag.
But in the 85th minute, a cross sent in by Carlos Mejía looking for Roberto Moreira was recklessly interrupted by Óscar Murillo, who clearly impacted the striker’s left foot with his cleats. How much of the rest was acting we’ll never know, but it’s a fact there was contact, and more than enough for a PK. See for yourself below.
¡PENALTI A FAVOR DE MOTAGUA!— FOX Sports MX (@FOXSportsMX) March 17, 2023
Se marca la pena máxima al minuto 85 del partido.
¡Se les puede ir de las manos a los Tuzos! #LigaCampeonesxFSM pic.twitter.com/5PCtOMTnzV
Eddie Hernández’s converted penalty gave Motagua the 1-1 draw (same score on aggregate), but having scored as a visiting team gave them the automatic advantage, meaning Pachuca had to win in order to move on to the next round. They couldn’t, however, making them the only Liga MX to fail to advance from the Round of 16.
A tough way to go out for sure if you’re Pachuca, but it serves as a reminder that so many missed opportunities can and will come back to haunt you in the end, no matter how small your rival may seem or how close victory appears.
Motagua will now meet an even tougher rival in Tigres in the tournament QFs. Imagine what a matchup we would’ve seen between Tigres and Pachuca had logic prevailed yesterday night. In turn, a huge chance for ‘Chima’ Ruiz and company to insert themselves in the semifinals.