Pachuca clips América's wings, advances to sixth Champions Cup final

Tuzos get on the board early, dig in and survive wave after wave of attack
Pachuca's Salomón Rondón (left) and América's Igor Lichnovsky battle for possession during the Concacaf Champions Cup semifinal series won by Pachuca.
Pachuca's Salomón Rondón (left) and América's Igor Lichnovsky battle for possession during the Concacaf Champions Cup semifinal series won by Pachuca. / YURI CORTEZ/GettyImages

Pachuca landed two early blows then withstood nearly 80 minutes of intense pressure from América to advance to the Concacaf Champions Cup final.

The Tuzos exploited lax marking on the left side of the Aguilas defense to score twice in just over 2 minutes before the game was 14 minutes old.

Miguel Rodríguez split a pair of defenders and raced onto a blocked shot that had trickled into the box. The 21-year-old right wingerhad time to pick his spot and he slotted home inside the far post.

Rodríguez played a key role in Pachuca’s second as well, getting behind América left back Cristian Calderón before dropping a pass to Erick Sánchez in the slot. Sánchez’s shot was blocked by Luis Malagón, the rebound bouncing through the middle of the box where the onrushing Nelson Deossa blasted a left-footer that ricocheted off a defender’s foot into the net.

The defending Liga MX champs dusted themselves off and went right on the offensive, captain Henry Martín powering a header into the net in minute 23 after the Tuzos had gotten caught upfield.

Guillermo Almada's men regained their poise and, from then on, Pachuca sat back in a defensive posture, their back four of Bryan González, Andrés Micolta, Gustavo Cabral and Jorge Berlanga playing ferociously, rarely giving América clean looks at goal.

América enjoyed 68% possession, but managed only two shots on goal whereas the Tuzos made the most of their limited time on the ball, selectively racing out on counter-attacks that gave the Aguilas fits.

Even with sub-par performances from Pachuca aces Sánchez and Oussama Idrissi, the hosts outshot América 19-7, forcing Malagón to come up with 7 saves.

No rest for the weary

The Tuzos are a perfect 5-0 in Concacaf Finals and they'll find out their finals opponent on Wednesday night as their Liga MX brothers Monterrey are fighting to overcome a 2-1 deficit to MLS champs Columbus Crew in the other semifinal series. The final is set for June 2.

Pachuca has little time to savor its victory over América as they'll be back on the Estadio Hidalgo pitch on Thursday for a Liga MX Play-In match. As the No. 7 seed, the Tuzos host the No. 8 UNAM Pumas with a chance to advance to the quarterfinals.

Almada slammed Liga MX officials for not tweaking the schedule because if his squad lose to the Pumas they'll have to play the winner of the No. 9 vs No. 10 match on Sunday, that being three games in five days and, counting last Saturday's season finale, that means four games in eight days.

As for América, the No. 1 seed in the Liga MX playoffs, they'll have a week to lick their wounds before they return to action. With the biggest payroll in Liga MX, the Aguilas were all in on the trophy hunt this season. Now, they'll have to focus on defending their crown.