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Pachuca were made to struggle in the first leg of the final, and the second leg might not be too different. The current Liga MX Apertura champions did all they could to successfully keep the Clausura table-toppers at bay and went on to score twice against the run of play to pick up a very healthy 2-0 lead coming into the final game of the season.
The first half started with both sides going end-to-end, but within 15 minutes, Atlas were back to their normal routine. Diego Martin Cocca’s men were happy to play on the counter and thus sat back and defended deep in their half. Luis Reyes scored a bullet header in the 26th minute to hand the home side the unlikely lead, which made things worse for Pachuca.
Atlas decided to sit back deeper in their half and were reluctant to attack with more than three men at a time. They managed to match Pachuca’s eight shots on goal with three on target in the first half, but the much-needed goal made it better for them.
Pachuca came out after half time with a change in tactics, as they knew they were in for a long night. Fernando Navarro was thrown in for Romario Ibarra, and they got more control of the game.
However, they could not convert any of the chances they were creating, and they were exposed at the back with everyone attacking and going for the equalizer. Julián Quiñones made them pay in the 93rd minute as he won the ball back from a clearance, bullied two Pachuca players off the ball, and then converted with a smart finish to make it 2-0 to Atlas and have one hand on the trophy.
A similar tactic will be deployed by Atlas in the second leg as well, but they will be sweating on the fitness of Anderson Santamaría. The defender had to come off in the second half. A stretcher was brought in for the Peru star, but he managed to walk off.
Before Thursday’s loss, Pachuca had not lost a single game to any of the sides that finished in the top 10 this season. They were the team to beat, and it was not a surprise to see them getting the results as they used to dominate from the start to the end. However, that streak is now done and dusted, and they have a lot of work to do in the second leg on Sunday.
Pachuca were up against Atletico de San Luis in the quarter finals, and they managed to edge out the result in their favor. After a 2-2 draw in the first leg, where San Luis needed a penalty in the first half and a 94th-minute goal to equalize, they were confident of winning it at home in the second leg. Nicolás Ibáñez ensured they got the win by scoring the winner in the 96th minute. They were the dominant side in the tie, as San Luis had equalized, once again, in the 93rd minute of the second leg. Moreover, they missed the chance to go 3-1 up in the 79th minute of the game after Víctor Guzmán’s penalty came off the woodwork.
It was a different case in the semi final first leg, as Diego Valdés handed Club America the lead early in the second half. Pachuca needed a late penalty Nicolás Ibáñez to equalize and keep things level before the second leg.
At home, Pachuca were on another level and gave Club America no chance of getting close to a shock win. Romario Ibarra and Erick Sánchez scored in the first half to hand the home side a 2-0 lead before Ibarra added his second and Pachuca’s third of the game just after the hour mark to seal the win. Club America dominated possession in the second half but could not muster any meaningful shots on target and thus, failed to score even once.
Pachuca will be hoping for something similar in the second leg of the semifinal as they need to come from 2-0 down to beat Atlas. The away side are not going to be attacking at the start, and it could easily be a frustrating evening yet again for the table toppers.
To make things worse, Pachuca lost the last time they faced Atlas at home. Julio Furch scored in the 5th minute of the game, and that was enough to separate the two sides.
No player is ruled out for Pachuca.
Atlas are aiming to become the first side since Club Leon in 2013-14 to win the Apertura and Clausura in the same season. Diego Martin Cocca had a simple plan while facing Pachuca in the first leg, and the players executed it to perfection.
Atlas have been in decent form lately and were on a six-match unbeaten streak before their semifinal second leg to Tigres UNAL. Their form did dip towards the end of the season, but they were able to finish in the top 3 and had a good outing in the knockout stages too.
They faced Guadalajara in the quarterfinal and won 2-1 away from home in the first leg. Jeremy Márquez scored a brace in the first half to put them in a comfortable situation, and Cristian Calderón’s goal for the home side early in the second half did not bother them. Atlas sat back and defended well as they have done throughout the league season.
Jeremy Márquez was in the limelight again in the second leg, but he was sent off for Atlas this time. He was given the marching orders by VAR after the referee initially gave him a yellow card. The good news for Atlas is that he should be back for the second leg as the suspension is over.
Luckily for Atlas, Anibal Chalá had handed them the lead in the first-half stoppage time, and Guadalajara did not manage to get a goal until the 89th minute. In the semifinal, Atlas dominated Tigres at home in the first leg. Julio Furch, Luis Reyes, and Julián Quiñones scored to ensure they took a healthy lead to the second leg, and that proved crucial.
Julián Quiñones made it 4-0 on aggregate in the first half of the second leg, but Tigres staged a dramatic comeback.
André-Pierre Gignac scored a second half hattrick, and Igor Lichnovsky added another in the 81st minute to level things up in the tie. Atlas were handed a penalty in the 95th minute of the game, and Aldo Rocha made no mistake, which helped them win 5-4 on aggregate.
Anderson Santamaría is a doubt for Atlas after coming off with an injury in the second half. It seemed like a hamstring issue and could force him to miss the second leg.
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|Pachuca vs Atlas Information|
|Teams||Pachuca vs Atlas|
|Time||Sunday, May 29 at 9.10pm|
|How to watch||Univision networks TUDN and UniMas,
ESPN Deportes, Telemundo and Fox
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Varun is a web journalist who has been writing on sports for 13 years. He took a shine for the MLS during the 2021 season and has been following it and writing about it since, alongside his work involving the English Premier League, La Liga, and the Serie A. He is deeply interested in soccer analytics and strategy and has aspirations to move into coaching at some point. Email: [email protected]More info on Varun Shetty
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