Puebla, San Luis, Santos Laguna claim final wildcard berths as Pumas collapse

Guillermo Martínez celebrates after Puebla ahead 3-1. the Camoteros went on to defeat Tijuana 5-2 and claim a Liga MX wildcard spot. (Photo by Jam Media/Getty Images)
Guillermo Martínez celebrates after Puebla ahead 3-1. the Camoteros went on to defeat Tijuana 5-2 and claim a Liga MX wildcard spot. (Photo by Jam Media/Getty Images) /
Liga MX M17 Sat 1
UNAM defenders Nicolás Freire (No. 23) and Arturo Ortiz (right) lament a miscommunication during a first half to forget. The 4-1 loss to Monterrey eliminated the Pumas from the Liga MX playoff race. (Photo by Alfredo Lopez/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

The Liga MX playoff field is set as Puebla, Santos Laguna and Atlético de San Luis claimed the final wildcard spots while UNAM crashed out of the postseason thanks to a 4-1 loss at first-place Monterrey.

Wildcard Weekend pairings are yet to be determined and one last first-round bye is up for grabs, but Saturday night’s early results settled the 12-team field.

The Pumas and Tijuana saw their playoff hopes fade away with big losses, while FC Juárez suffered elimination a night earlier.

UNAM conceded four first-half goals to ruin a late-season resurgence that allowed Pumas Nation to dream of redemption, but their defense let them down again and “los felinos” will end the Clausura 2023 in 14th place.

Camoteros erupt for five goals

Puebla kicked off the day with offensive fireworks, putting pressure on UNAM and Atlético de San Luis to respond. Only the Tuneros did.

Guillermo Martínez and Federico Mancuello each had two goals and an assist for Puebla (although one of Mancuello’s goals was into the wrong net), boosting “La Franja” to a clutch 5-2 victory.

In minute 14, Martínez squared to Mancuello who had time to size up his shot before firing a low laser from just outside the box. The ball bounded inside the right post, just beyond the desperate lunge of Pepe Toño Rodríguez.

Not satisfied with putting Puebla up 1-0, Mancuello poked a centering pass past his own goalie from close range much to the befuddlement of his Camotero teammates.

Puebla regained the lead in minute 32 when Luis Arcadio García took a pass off a corner kick, drove to the touchline and chipped a cross  to Diego de Buen all alone at the back post. The Camoteros defender calmly volleyed home, tilting the game to the home side.

The privileged left foot of Mancuello took center stage 10 minutes after the restart, essentially sending Tijuana into the offseason. A splendid corner kick from the Puebla playmaker found Martínez at the penalty spot and the lanky striker rose above his marker to head home, putting the Camoteros ahead 3-1.

Martínez extended the lead to 4-1 only 6 minutes later, chesting down a pass from Facundo Waller and thumping home from 13 meters.

Martín Barragán got Puebla’s fifth goal from the penalty spot and Braian Romero closed out the scoring in minute 68.

San Luis secures invite to Liga MX postseason party

The Tuneros (vs Atlas) and Pumas (at Monterrey) started their respective games at the same time knowing a win was the best way to snag a wildcard berth.

When UNAM fell so far behind in the first half, San Luis knew a draw would be enough to extend their season.

In minute 38, Atlas striker Julio Furch was (harshly) shown a red card, improving the Tuneros’ chances of getting the result they needed.

The hosts fired off 24 shots but the disciplined Zorros defense made sure very few were dangerous. Goalie Camilo Vargas only had to make three saves, but his first one in minute 23 was a beauty.

San Luis defender Unai Bilbao powered a header off a corner kick that was ticketed for the far post, but Vargas came up with the save at full stretch, parrying the shot out of harm’s way.

The game ended in a scoreless draw, lifting the Tuneros to 19 points (1 more than UNAM) while Atlas closed out the season with 21. With a late match pitting Cruz Azul (21 points) against Santos Laguna (19 points) and three games on Sunday, both clubs must await their wildcard rivals.

Martín claims Liga MX scoring title

América striker Henry Martín ended the Clausura 2023 with 14 goals and he will no doubt be crowned Liga MX Golden Boot winner after Sunday calendar is completed.

Martín’s closest pursuer – Atlas forward Julián Quiñones – was hurt by the ejection of Furch which forced the Zorros into a defensive posture. Even so, JQ came close to getting on the board on several occasions.

Up in Monterrey, a first-half hat trick by Rogelio Funes Mori lifted the erstwhile El Tri striker into a tie with Quiñones for second place on the Liga MX scoring list with 12 goals.

Three players in the Top 10 still had a game to play, but with only 7 goals each, the likelihood of them catching Martín is nil.

Elsewhere in Liga MX

Guadalajara clinched the No. 3 seed with a 4-1 beatdown of last-place Mazatlán FC. The Chivas finish the season with 34 points, tying the franchise record for a short season.

“El Rebaño Sagrado” will join No. 1 seed Monterrey and No. 2 seed América (34 points) on the sideline next weekend as observers, awaiting to see who emerges from Wildcard Weekend.

Next. Tigres draw first blood vs León in CCL semis. dark

The final first-round bye will fall to either Toluca (29 points), Pachuca (28 points) or León (27 points), depending on the outcome of Sunday’s matches: Necaxa (14 points) at Toluca; Pachuca at Querétaro (20 points); and Tigres (25 points) at León.