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Match recap: Pachuca 4 (2), Santos Laguna 4 (4)

Santos’ pulls off a stunning win over defending champions Pachuca, getting a last second equalizer before winning in penalties

Matheus Doria of Santos celebrates after scoring the team’s fourth goal during the repechage match between Pachuca and Santos Laguna as part of the Torneo Clausura 2023 Liga MX at Hidalgo Stadium on May 06, 2023 in Pachuca, Mexico. Photo by Agustin Cuevas/Getty Images

Liga MX has a reputation for wild games, but the playoffs have a tendency to take these to new heights. This was the case as Santos, who made the repechaje only because Querétaro was ineligible, dethroned the defending champions by getting a last second goal to tie it before taking it 4-2 in penalties.

Santos came out like a house on fire, causing all sorts of trouble for Pachuca’s back line. Harold Preciado looked like he had the first good chance of the game in the second minute, but Oscar Ustari turned his shot aside before he was ruled to have been offside. Then a minute later Avilés Hurtado made a run into the box and tried to head the ball, instead catching Gibran Lajud’s big paw in the head. Adonai Escobedo ruled for a penalty, and after a few minutes of discussion Cristian “Chicho” Arango stepped up and converted to give Los Tuzos the early lead.

Pachuca wasn’t done, and in the ninth minute Hurtado got into the box again, however this time the defense was up for the challenge and neutralized it before a chance was created. But Santos turned seemingly nothing into something in the tenth minute when what looked like a last-ditch flick into the box by Omar Campos was missed by Gustavo Cabral and headed by Harold Preciado past Ustari to draw the sides level.

It wouldn’t last however. Just three minutes later Romario Ibarra made a run down the left and hit a cross back into the box that Roberto de la Rosa was there to clean up and knock in past Lajud to return the lead to the hosts.

After that flurry, the play settled down some. Pachuca kept running at Santos, but Santos absorbed the pressure and looked for opportunities to get possession. Santos got one such opportunity in the 25th minute when a Juan Brunetta corner kick was headed in by Félix Torres to equalize the match at 2-2.

The pace of this game quickened considerably, and both Gibran Lajud and Oscar Ustari were called on to make good saves to keep their teams in it. de la Rosa had a hit from distance in the 41st that Lajud made a fantastic save on, however on the ensuing corner kick disaster struck for Santos. The ball went into the mixer and Avilés Hurtado was able to cross the ball from his back over to a wide-open Romario Ibarra for the easy goal.

The two teams did not let up, with both making runs at one another and trying to get one more goal before the five minutes of stoppage expired. Neither was able to get one more, and the teams went into the locker with the hosts enjoying a slim 3-2 lead.

The second half start off about where the first left off. In the 47th minute, de la Rosa saw an opening and hit a shot from beyond the halfway line that just missed the net but would have possibly beaten Gibran Lajud were it on frame. Then in the 51st minute Raúl “Dedos” López hit a screamer from distance that beat Ustari to draw the sides level.

The game resembled a basketball game, with teams running up and down the pitch and shooting and speeds that seemed impossible to maintain but simply kept coming. Eduardo “La Chofis” López had a rip from 35 yards out that just missed wide by about a foot. In the 71st, Lajud bobbled a save and then had to make another save at close range to keep things level. And just when it looked like it was going to go to penalties, Pachuca managed to get a goal from Erick “Chiquito” Sánchez when he pounced on a ball into the box and beat Lajud to put the home side up 4-3.

But despite it being close to the end of stoppage, Santo won a free kick deep. Juan Brunetta hit it on frame and Ustari made the save, but Matheus Dória got to the rebound and knocked it in to send the game to penalties.

In the penalty shootout, Gibran Lajud stopped two and Santos made all four of theirs to dethrone the reigning champions and advance to the Liguilla.

Pachuca: Oscar Ustari; Gustavo Cabral, Enzo Martínez, Bryan González (Òscar Murillo, 66’), Kevin Álvarez; Romario Ibarra (Paulino, 74’), Erick Sánchez, Luis Chávez, Avilés Hurtado (Antonio Figueroa, 81’); Cristian Arango (Eduardo López, 66’), Roberto de la Rosa (Ilian Hernández, 66’)

Santos Laguna: Gibran Lajud; Omar Campos, Félix Torres, Matheus Dória, Raúl López; Alan Cervantes, Aldo López (Lucas González, 78’), Emerson Rodríguez (Rivaldo Lozano, 73’), Juan Brunetta; Harold Preciado (Javier Correa, 73’), Diego Medina (Jair González, 81’)

Scoring: Pachuca - Cristian Arango (6’ - penalty), Roberto de la Rosa (13’), Romario Ibarra (42’), Erick Sánchez (90+3’); Santos Laguna - Harold Preciado (10’), Félix Torres (25’), Raúl López (52’), Matheus Dória (90+4’)

Disciplinary: Pachuca - Cristian Arango (Yellow - 48’), Enzo Martínez (Yellow - 57’); Santos Laguna - Juan Brunetta (Yellow - 4’), Aldo López (Yellow - 34;), Harold Preciado (Yellow - 45’), Raúl López (Yellow - 88’)

Penalties: Pachuca - Gustavo Cabral (X), Luis Chávez, Eduardo López, Paulino (X); Santos Laguna - Juan Brunetta, Javier Correa, Matheus Dória, Rivaldo Lozano