You couldn’t ask for much more than this. Thanks to victories by the Chivas and Tigres, the Liga MX semifinals will feature not one, but two “Clásicos.”
Second-seeded Guadalajara emerged (barely) from the “Clásico Tapatío” to join No. 1 Monterrey, No. 2 América and No. 7 Tigres in the Clausura 2023 Final Four.
Soccer fans will not get to see four of the best rivalry games Liga MX has to offer as Monterrey vs Tigres in one semifinal and América and Chivas go to war in the other.
Nothing more be said than “Get yer popcorn ready, Liga MX fans!”
Chivas scrap and claw their way past Atlas
Entering the return leg at Estadio Akron down one goal to cross-city rivals Atlas, Guadalajara opened the game attacking in waves.
Alexis Vega, Isaac Brizuela, Alan Mozo and Fernando Beltrán charged repeatedly at the Zorros but the disciplined defense swept away multiple Chivas chances.
At the half, “El Rebaño Sagrado” had enjoyed 63% possession but could not manage a single shot on goal.
The Chivas were playing tough defense as well (center back Luis Orozco made a brilliant save to deny Julio Furch) but as the second half began the pressure increased to find the goal that would put them in the semifinals.
On the hour mark, Vega lofted a corner kick over the scrum in the middle of the box where Gilberto Sepúlveda was completely unmarked at the back post. The Chivas defender nonchalantly headed the ball inside the post and the aggregate score was knotted at 1-1.
As the higher-seeded team, Guadalajara would advance with the global draw and they dropped back and closed their lines, springing into counterattacks frequently, nearly coming up with the clincher on a couple occasions.
In minute 88, Chivas keeper Miguel Jiménez took a star turn. A Julián Quiñones flick sent Jonathan Herrera in all alone but Jiménez blocked the shot.
A moment later, Jiménez parried aside a long cross that bounced across the face of goal and seconds later a Furch header clanged off the left post, preserving Guadalajara’s victory.
The ending to the match was more nerve-wracking than Chivas fans would have liked but now they can turn their attention to a pair of “Super Clásicos” in the semifinals where they’ll tangle with América.
Tigres nearly cough up 3-goal lead
Earlier Sunday, 4th-seeded Toluca made a game effort to erase the 4-1 deficit from the first leg of their quarterfinal against Tigres. In fact, the Diablos Rojos managed to tie the aggregate score at the 53-minute mark thanks to a brace from Edgar López and a hustle goal by Marcel Ruiz.
If the game had ended at that point, Toluca would be in the semifinals but the “Choriceros” ran out of luck in minute 71 when Sebastián Córdova got enough of an André-Pierre Gignac centering pass to knock it into the net.
The 5-4 aggregate victory prevented an embarrassing end to the season for Tigres and sends them into a Final Four match-up against cross-town rivals Monterrey.