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Pachuca will take on Toluca on Thursday, October 27, 2022, at the Estadio Hidalgo
This is the first-leg final of the Liga MX Apertura
Pachuca knocked out Monterrey, whereas Toluca knocked out Club America
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Only two sides remain standing in the Liga MX Apertura. Pachuca beat Monterrey 6-2 in aggregate over their two semi-final legs, and well worth their place in the Liga MX Apertura finals. Toluca had to see past Liga MX Apertura favorites Club America, winning 3-2 on aggregate.
Both Pachuca and Toluca’s path to the final goes to show just how hard it is to predict who will come out on top at the end of the Apertura season. The league table gives everyone some idea, but the knockouts are a different kettle of fish. The two finalists have faced one another 26 times, and there’s very little between the two sides as far as head-to-head records are considered.
Pachuca edge it with 10 wins, seven draws and nine losses, but there’s nothing to suggest based on the head-to-head record alone that they’re the favorites. They’ll be playing the first game at home, however, and did end the league season higher than Toluca, so when you add all those things together, it’s hard not to go into this game thinking Pachuca will be the favorites.
Another psychological advantage that Pachuca have over Toluca is that they’ve won the two games played between the two sides this year. In fact, the last match was a convincing 4-1 victory over Toluca.
Pachuca got off to the best of starts, with Illian Hernadez finding the back of the net in the 15th and 24th minute. Toluca, however, pulled a goal back in the 63rd minute to make it a tense affair going forward. Toluca had most of the possession in this game as well. Pachuca, however, killed the game in the 73rd minute after Paulino Gomez found the back of the net.
Nicolas Ibanez scored one more three minutes into second-half stoppage time. The match ended 4-1 in favor of Pachuca, and was richly deserved.
After winning the first-leg against Monterrey 5-2 with a bit of good fortune along the way, it was almost certain that Pachuca would go through to the Liga MX finals, but they still had to make sure they were professional, and get the job done.
They did just that by getting a 1-0 win away from home. You could make a case that this second-leg display was more impressive than the first because they didn’t really need a win to go through – as long as they didn’t lose by a big margin, they were going to be through.
They had to face a barrage of shots throughout the game, 24 of them, but they stood their ground and were rewarded with a penalty five minutes into the 90. Aviles Hurtado made no mistake from the spot, and sent Pachuca into the finals in style.
Nicolas Ibanez has been the key player for Pachuca going forward. His hat-trick in the first-leg will be a big confidence booster for the side – they have been struggling to finish their chances all season, but seem to have become more efficient in their last two matches.
In decisive games like the one coming up, it is crucial that you take your chances because there won’t be many. Ibanez scored nine goals like in the league season, and will need to be sharp in front of goal once again.
Pachuca’s backline has delivered for most of the season, and they’ll need to be called upon once again. They finished the league season, conceding just 15 goals in 17 games. This was the second-best defensive record in the league. The team they knocked out of the semifinals had the best defensive record, which goes to show just how strong they’ve been in recent weeks and all season.
Club America will not be winning the Liga MX Apertura after looking like the favorites to win it all season. Toluca deserved all the praise coming their way for being fearless over two legs, and winning 3-2 on aggregate.
The second leg of the semifinal against Club America ended 1-1 and was enough to help Toluca go through, having won the first-leg 2-1. Getting the first goal in the second-leg helped their cause, Jorge Torres Nilo finding the target within the 29 minutes.
Club America responded six minutes later thanks to Alejandro Zendejas, but it wasn’t to be for the league leaders. Toluca, as expected, didn’t have much of the possession in this tie – only having 35% of it, but they looked a threat for most of the game. They got nine shots off with two finding the target. Club America took 20 shots, but could only get five on target. Toluca won’t make it easy for Pachuca.
Toluca can play these two-legged ties with less pressure. They weren’t expected to get this far. Nobody gave them a chance against Club America but here they are. Their recent record against Pachuca is certainly not great, but all of that changes in a final.
Pachuca will also be under pressure to win this tie now, which isn’t something they faced in the previous game where Monterrey had better odds. Toluca need to continue doing what they have in recent weeks, and they’ll be just fine.
No one is expecting Toluca to start the match with all guns blazing. The onus will be on Pachuca to take the game to Toluca, as they’ll be playing at home and have been the better team in the league. If they can handle the first 20 minutes of the game, they can slowly play themselves into the tie. Toluca didn’t have the best defensive record in the league, conceding 23 goals.
Something we have to keep in mind with the Liga MX is that the sample size is quite small. We can’t base all our predictions on what we’ve seen in the league. The unpredictability makes it fascinating, and is the reason why there’s a Liga MX Apertura final between these two sides.
Toluca are the underdogs, but can’t go into this game handing Pachuca the initiative. They’ve got this far for a reason, and have to use everything they’ve learnt this season into the match.
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|Pachuca vs Toluca
Estadio Nemesio Diaz
Thursday, October 27 at 9:05 pm ET onwards
How to watch
Univision networks TUDN and UniMas, ESPN Deportes, Telemundo, and Fox Deportes
With an interest in strategy and mathematics, applying that to sports writing was the natural progression. A writer at night and the founder of a gaming company, Nikhil’s previous experience includes working with ESPN for five years. His specialization includes soccer, basketball, tennis, and esports betting. Email: [email protected]More info on Nikhil Kalro
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