Sixth-seeded Toluca held off stiff challenge from No. 11 FC Juárez before pulling away in the second half for a 3-0 win and a berth in the Liga MX quarterfinals.
The Diablos’ reward for advancing to the Liguilla is a two-legged clash with No. 3 seeded Santos Laguna.
The victory by “los Choriceros” means seventh-seeded Cruz Azul will meet No. 2 Monterrey in the next round, while top-seeded América awaits the winner of the wildcard match between No. 8 Puebla and No. 9 Guadalajara.
The Liguilla line-up will also feature a Pachuca-Tigres series that promises to be exciting. All four series will begin midweek with the lower seed hosting the first leg; the quarterfinals will conclude next weekend with the higher seed hosting the return leg.
Liga MX Wildcard Weekend continues …
The final contest of the Liga MX quarterfinals kicks off at Estadio Cuauhtémoc in Puebla at 4:30 pm local time as the Camoteros hope to reach the Liguilla for a fifth consecutive season.
The Chivas defeated Puebla at home back on Matchday 14 but then finished out the Liga MX regular season with three losses, ruining their chances of hosting a wildcard game. The losing streak saw “El Rebaño Sagrado” tumble from seventh place to ninth.
A win won’t be easy for Guadalajara as Puebla only lost three times, the second-fewest losses in Liga MX this season. A tie would go directly to a penalty kick shootout, but even then the Chivas might be at a disadvantage.
In its last three wildcard appearances, “La Franja” has advanced via shootout, including two seasons ago when the 7th-seeded Camoteros knocked out the No. 10 Chivas (6-5 from the spot after a 2-2 draw in regulation).
One interesting sidebar: If Guadalajara loses Sunday evening, coach Ricardo Cadena is likely a goner. And the favorite to replace him is Puebla coach Nicolás Larcamón!
Toluca survives Bravos scare
Visiting FC Juárez looked more like the higher seed for long stretches of the first half, forcing a great fingertip save from Toluca goalie Tiago Volpi in the opening minutes.
Against the run of play, the Diablos pounced on a turnover in midfield and Camilo Sanvezzo found the net on a lovely individual effort in minute 24. The Brazilian striker took a Carlos González feed wide left, cut inside a double team, then curled a blazing right-footer past Alfredo Talavera and inside the far post.
Seven minutes later, Bravos winger Alan Medina – a Toluca academy product – found himself all alone inside the box but ripped a close-range shot over the bar.
Just 15 seconds after the restart, Toluca extended its lead. González produced a steal off the FC Juárez kickoff, led Leo Fernández down the left flank then raced into the box to redirect a nifty centering pass, deflecting it past Talavera at the near post. Fernández led Liga MX with 7 assists during the Apertura 2022.
The Bravos did not hang their heads and continued to press the attack. The visitors clanged the crossbar on two occasions but were foiled twice by splendid saves as Volpi tenaciously defended his net.
Sub Marcel Ruiz completed the scoring in minute 90+2 as he and another sub, Daniel Álvarez, executed a two-man move with aplomb.
Despite the loss, the Bravos acquitted themselves well in their first-ever Liga MX playoff game. Still, that is small consolation, especially as FC Juárez had never lost at Toluca, defeating the Diablos Rojos in all three previous visits to Estadio Nemesio Díez.