Cruz Azul scored late to leap-frog the Chivas in the wildcard standings while losses by Atlético de San Luis and Necaxa left unclaimed the 12th and final seed in the Liga MX playoffs.
Saturday’s outcomes also virtually secured the first-ever Liga MX postseason appearance for FC Juárez, Friday night winners over UNAM. And Monterrey clinched the No. 2 seed by virtue of its scoreless draw against Pachuca who now are likely to drop to the No. 4 seed.
Mazatlán FC can now sneak into the final wildcard spot with a win at fourth-place Santos Laguna on Sunday but that will be a tall task as the Guerreros are undefeated at home (7-1-0) and the Cañoneros are a lowly 1-4-2 on the road.
In Sunday’s finale, Tijuana has a slim chance to claim a spot in the Liga MX playoffs. If Mazatlán fails to win, the Xolos can bump Necaxa out of the No. 12 seed with a 5-0 win at León
Liga MX holders give Cocca big send-off
Two-time defending Liga MX champs Atlas were knocked out of the playoffs weeks ago and had just 2 wins on the season, but fans were out en masse at the Estadio Jalisco to bid adios to Diego Cocca.
The Argentine coach led the Zorros to back-to-back Liga MX crowns (the club’s only previous league title coming back in 1951) but announced last month that he was leaving the team at the end of the Apertura 2022.
Atlas fans cheered Cocca and chanted his name throughout the game against Necaxa who had everything to play for. The Rayos needed a draw to clinch a playoff berth, but the Zorros were determined to give their manager a victorious sendoff.
And that they did as defender Gaddi Aguirre headed home a delivery from Luis Reyes in minute 76. Atlas finished up a disastrous season with a shut-out win, potentially ruining Necaxa’s season.
Cementeros get buzzer-beater to climb into Top 8
Six weeks ago, Cruz Azul was in 17th place after face-planting against bitter rivals América. Diego Aguirre was sent packing and club academy director Raúl Gutiérrez was put in charge of the reeling Cementeros.
Seven games later, “La Máquina” is in seventh place and is guaranteed of hosting a wildcard match next weekend. “El Potro” guided The Blue Machine to a 5-1-1 record down the stretch, making it difficult for the Cementeros front office to do anything but remove the “interim” tag from his job title.
Cruz Azul already had a Liga MX playoff invitation in the pocket before taking the field against Guadalajara but knew a victory would earn them a home game on Wildcard Weekend whereas a loss or draw would have seen them drop to the No. 10 seed.
As a sterile first half came to a close, a Uriel Antuna thumper from a sharp angle sent the Cementeros into the locker room up 1-0. Sergio Flores blasted home from in close to equalize in minute 68 and the Chivas came close to taking the lead 5 minutes later when sub Christian Calderón smacked the left post from the top of the box.
A couple minutes into stoppage time, Antuna stepped into the spotlight again, releasing Rodrigo Huescas down the right flank. The 19-year-old fullback zipped a low pass across the goal mouth that found the head of Miguel Estrada who banged the ball into the back of the net.
The Cementeros are now 7th in the Liga MX table but will be passed by León if the Esmeraldas defeat lowly Tijuana at home.
In Saturday’s fourth game, Tigres routed Atlético de San Luis 3-0 to burst the Tuneros’ Liga MX playoff dreams. Last season’s Golden Boot winner André-Pierre Gignac scored twice to lead “los felinos” to the victory but the Frenchman ends the campaign with 8 goals, three behind this season’s scoring champ, Pachuca’s Nico Ibáñez.