WOODY BAUM - Thursday, May 13, 2010
A late equalizer allowed Jose Francisco Torres and Pachuca to salvage a tie in the first leg of their semifinal bout against Toluca.
Pachuca's miracle season continued on Wednesday after a last-minute goal gave them the tie in the first leg of their liguilla semifinal against Toluca. With the tie, Pachuca will need to win in Toluca in the second leg in order to advance to the finals.
Francisco Torres started and immediately threatened when, in the second minute, his center was handled by Toluca keeper Alfredo Talavara and the ball bounced to Edy Brambila who had a chance to score the first goal. However, his header went just high.
After that initial early opportunity for Pachuca, the first half was otherwise marked by a distinct lack of chances. Both teams attacked, played hard defense, passed well and played overall great soccer, but neither was able to score.
However, it wouldn't take long in the second half for things to change, when Atonio "Sinha" Naelson delivered a center into the area from a free kick, which Diego Novaretti was able to head in to give the visitors the lead in the 47th minute.
Down by a goal, Pachuca began to play more offensively, desperately seeking the goal they needed to tie the score, and they found it after Damian Alvarez delivered a cross that Daniel Manso was able to get his head on. Tolouca defender Edgar Duenas was able to block the header, but the ball rebounded into the goal post and back to Manso, who would not fail from close range to tie the game in the 60th minute.
In the 62nd minute, Francisco Torres was substituted out for Luis Montes, in part to give the Pachuca offense more spark and in part to preserve Torres, who had earlier had picked up a yellow card for a hard tackle.
Despite the offensive efforts of Pachuca in their attempt to win at home, it was Toluca who would strike next when Sinha delivered his second assist of the night as he centered the ball into the area, which Hector Mancilla was able to head in and score to give the visitors the lead for the second time of the night in the 81st minute.
Unfazed, Pachuca did what they have done well of late, and that is score very timely and fortunate goals. In the 86th minute, when the game seemed out of reach, Luis Montes' cross was able to reach Juan Carlos Cacho, who managed to recenter the ball and find Dario Cvitanich, who headed the ball in to give Pachuca the tie.
A tie wasn't the result Pachuca had originally hoped for, as they now have to win on the road to advance to the finals. However, a loss would have all but ended Pachuca's liguilla as they would have then had to win by two on the road to advance.
Of critical concern for Pachuca is the status of Torres who was recently called into the training camp by the U.S. national team. It is currently unknown until when Guillermo Rivarola will keep the young American, but he has made it known that he would like to keep Torres for as long as possible.