América edges Guadalajara and will get a chance to defend its title

Defender Israel Reyes scores lone goal to send Aguilas to second straight Liga MX final
América will get a chance to defend its Liga MX title after defeating Guadalajara 1-0 on Sunday night in Estadio Azteca.
América will get a chance to defend its Liga MX title after defeating Guadalajara 1-0 on Sunday night in Estadio Azteca. / Manuel Velasquez/GettyImages

An Israel Reyes header was enough to send América back to the Liga Mx final where the top-seeded Aguilas will try to win their league-record 15th title.

A Diego Valdés free kick from the left wing soared to the back side where Igor Lichnovsky recentered toward the goalmouth where Reyes rose above his marker to nod the ball just inside the left post.

Reyes’ goal was the only one of the “Super Clásico” semifinal series, giving the defending champs a 1-0 aggregate victory over 6th-seeded Guadalajara.

The win also gave América a measure of revenge against the Chivas who eliminated the Aguilas in Estadio Azteca at this same stage a year ago.

Frisky Chivas squander good first half

Guadalajara was on its front foot from the opening whistle, moving forward with purpose while disrupting América’s offensive scheme.

Just 6 minutes into the match, Roberto Alvarado dribbled past Álvaro Fidalgo then sent a soft through pass into the box to Ricardo Marín who had made a diagonal run behind Igor Lichnovsky, but the Aguilas defender recovered in time to deflect the shot which dribbled into the arms of Luis Malagón.

A few minutes later, Lichnovsky and Malagón failed to communicate as the goalie ran to the edge of the box to corral a high centering pass. Lichnovsky either didn’t hear his teammate or he ignored him, popping a weak header into the air that Alvarado ran, thumping a screaming volley as Malagón frantically retreated. The ball clattered off the crossbar as América’s fans hearts skipped a beat.

Guadalajara’s energy had the champs on their heels. América looked uncharacteristically hesitant, they weren’t creating space and their tactics seemed predictable.

In minute 26, América nearly took the lead against the run of play

A Diego Valdés corner soared over a crowd at the near post as an unmarked Reyes charged in at the back. The América defender lowered his head and missed, the ball bouncing off his right shoulder and skidding wide of the right post.

The Chivas created one more chance when Pável Pérez spun Reyes around at the endline but shooting into the side netting.

As the two teams went into the locker room, the Chivas looked to be in charge and Reyes looked more likely to be the goat than the hero.

The tables turn

The second half proved the old adage “Never underestimate the heart of a champion” as América took charge through midfield and started stringing passes together.

Julián Quiñones misfired from close range in minute 49 then got behind the defense again 8 minutes later only to see his shot disturbed by Jesús Orozco.

In the meantime, the Chivas had just missed converting a fast-break opportunity when a Fernando Beltrán shot zipped just wide of the far post.

Five minutes later, Reyes stepped into the spotlight, erasing the memory of his first-half blunder.

Now Guadalajara would have to score two goals to knock out the Liga MX champs, but try as they might, the Chivas could not mount a serious threat against the league’s stingiest defense.

Then in minute 73, Aguilas captain Henry Martín nearly put the game away but his low bullet was smothered by Raúl Rangel.

The closest Guadalajara would come to finding the net was a looping “Chicharito” Hernández that Malagón easily caught next to his right post.

After 7 minutes of stoppage time, ref César Ramos blew his whistle ending Guadalajara’s season and sending the yellow-clad fans in Estadio Azteca into ecstasy.


América’s opponent in the Liga MX final will be either crosstown rivals Cruz Azul or Monterrey. The second leg of that semifinal series will be played Sunday night at Mexico City’s Estadio Azul and 4th-seeded Monterrey must defeat the No. 2 seed Cementeros by 2 goals to advance.