América, Chivas set up 'Super' semifinal pairing; Cruz Azul, Monterrey move on, too

Defending Liga MX champs get a scare; Cementeros overcome UNAM playoff hex
Alexis Gutiérrez (No. 14) watches his left-footed volley zip past Pumas goalie Julio González (in green). The goal helped Cruz Azul secure a 4-2 aggregate victory over UNAM in their Liga MX quarterfinal series Sunday at Estadio Azul.
Alexis Gutiérrez (No. 14) watches his left-footed volley zip past Pumas goalie Julio González (in green). The goal helped Cruz Azul secure a 4-2 aggregate victory over UNAM in their Liga MX quarterfinal series Sunday at Estadio Azul. / YURI CORTEZ/GettyImages

The Liga MX semifinals will offer up a “Super Clásico” and a No. 2 (Cruz Azul) vs No. 4 (Monterrey) clash after a weekend of quarterfinals drama that saw the defending champs escape what would have been a crushing defeat with a stoppage-time goal.

América’s pursuit of a record 15th Liga MX title continues after Julián Quiñones’ heroics in minute 90+4 on Saturday night at Estadio Azteca.

JQ poked home the rebound of an Illian Hernández header to finish off an Aguilas fast break, knotting the score at 1-1 to even the aggregate score at 2-2. As the higher seed, No. 1 América advanced to the semifinals over the 4th-seeded Tuzos, a team that has tormented them in the playoffs.

Pachuca had taken the lead just after the half-hour when Oussam Idrissi smashed home a terrible pass from Aguilas defender Igor Lichnovsky. Guillermo Almada’s men then spent the next 60 minutes scrambling to cut off a relentless América attack, only to come up short at the end.

Bring on the Chivas!

Sixth-seeded Guadalajara set up a “Super Clásico” semifinal by shutting out No. 3 Toluca, the highest-scoring team in Liga MX.

The visiting Chivas held the high-flying Diablos Rojos – and former teammate Alexis Vega (who had a series-winning goal annulled in minute 80 for being offside) – to a scoreless draw on Saturday night, blanking “Los Choriceros” across 180 minutes to win their quarterfinal series 1-0 on aggregate.

“El Rebaño Sagrado” was the only lower seed to reach the semifinals and their reward is a date with the defending Liga MX champs.

América is 6-3-2 in the past 11 “Clásico de Clasicos,” knocking the Chivas out of this year’s Concacaf Champions Cup at the Round of 16 stage.

The last time the two most popular Liga MX teams met in the playoffs was in the Clausura 2023 semifinals, with the 3rd-ranked Chivas stunning the No. 2 Aguilas by winning the return match 3-1 at Estadio Azteca.

Monterrey has eyes on 6th Liga MX title

Tigres bid for a third straight Liga MX finals ended unceremoniously on the home field of the club’s bitterest enemy, Monterrey.

The Rayados knocked out their crosstown rivals on a 3-2 aggregate scoreline after Sunday’s 1-1 draw in “El Gigante de Acero.”

Monterrey appears to have snapped out of the slump that saw Fernando Ortiz’s men sink from first to fourth (and tumble out of the Concacaf Champions Cup at the semifinal stage).

After a sluggish first half that saw Tigres take a 1-0 lead from a gorgeous André-Pierre Gignac side-heel flick, the Rayados came roaring out of the locker room, knocking “los felinos” onto their heels. 

Monterrey put Nahuel Guzmán’s understudy Carlos Felipe Rodríguez under siege, firing six shots at him in the first 15 minutes of the second half. 

Sub Jordi Cortizo provided the clincher, cooly redirecting a rebound into an empty net in minute 59.

Cortizo had set up Sergio Canales inside the half-moon and as the Spaniard let fly with his trusty left boot, Cortizo continued toward the net. He was in perfect position to swat home the rebound after the ball soared past a lunging Rodríguez and clattered off the left post.

Monterrey now has a 5-4 advantage over “los felinos” in “Clásico Regiomontano” playoff series.

Best of all, the Rayados avenged last season’s stunning loss to the 7th-seeded Tigres in the semifinals, when they crashed out of the playoffs as the No. 1 seed.

Cruz Azul overcomes UNAM jinx

The 2nd-seeded Cementeros made their 2-0 lead from the first leg stand up against the rugged Pumas, escaping with a 2-2 draw to advance to the Liga MX semifinals for the first time since winning it all three years ago.

Cruz Azul almost seemed mesmerized by the task of holding off UNAM, seemingly haunted by the memories of their last playoff meeting when the Pumas overcame a 4-0 first-leg deficit to dismiss the Cementeros.

And before that, an underdog UNAM side stunned Cruz Azul in the 2022 Concacaf Champions League semifinals.

The Cementeros looked too casual in the first half, frequently coughing up the ball in their defensive third with careless play.

In minute 51, a Guillermo Martínez header gave the Pumas life. Twelve minutes later, Memo flashed a shot past the far post and Cruz Azul fans were suddenly hyperventilating.

But that scare seemed to awaken the Cementeros and in minute 76 sub Alexis Gutiérrez patiently waited for a high pass from fellow sub Ángel Sepúlveda to bounce onto his left then slammed a volley past Julio González.


Cementeros Nation paused their celebrating after a César Huerta goal in minute 85, but the festivities resumed after Lorenzo Faravelli’s nifty tap-in early in stoppage time.