Heading into the the semifinal ties in the Liga MX Apertura 2013 playoffs, it was clear that both games on paper offered us fans a great watch as all four teams were characterized by having very good attacking styles and prioritized their ability to attack the opposition. Luckily on Thursday night, what was on paper played out to be true as both games were played with intensity, good technical skill, and a show of determination where the home teams, Toluca and Leon, won and will take those advantages into their respective second leg games on Sunday.
In the Toluca-Club America game, the game lived up to its billing as America was the better team in the first half but Toluca was the better team in the second half to earn a 2-1 win. Heading into the game, the key tactical battle was the play out on the wings between Toluca’s wide midfielder duo/wingers of Isaac Brizuela and Edgar Benitez against America’s wing back duo of Miguel Layun and Paul Aguilar.
In the first half, Layun and Aguilar won the battle as both did a good job of staying back and defending but attacking when America was in control of possession. This all changed in the second half as in the first ten minutes of the half, Toluca turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead as Brizuela and Benitez did a much better job of exploiting the hole between America’s wing backs and the three man central defense as both players scored Toluca’s goals with some help by Moises Munoz via questionable positioning. The turnaround in the play of Brizuela and Benitez reflected that of Toluca’s who will go into the second leg game on Sunday not only holding a one goal lead in the tie but also having a clear idea of how to go about and “manage” the game. Doing so correctly will ultmately see them in the final.
In the Leon-Santos Laguna game, Leon came out and took the game to Santos as they played with an intensity that clearly caught Santos by surprise as they overran them in the midfield. Leon took the lead thanks to a wonderful goal scored by Juan Jose Vasquez, a player who scored a similar type goal last weekend against Monarcas Morelia. Carlos Peña, a player rumored to be tracked by Sporting Lisboa scored Leon’s second while Franco Arizala came on as a substitute to make it 3-0 to the “Esmeraldas”. Just as it appeared that Santos would face an impossible task, Javier Orozco would pull one back for Santos and give them a fighting chance back home on Tuesday.
While it is still within the realm of possibility that both America and Santos can overturn scorelines not in their favor, America is the most likely of the two to pull this off given they have a one goal margin to overturn. That said, we can expect to see just as entertaining games if not more so in the second leg on Thursday night as the home teams will be in a position where they have to take more chances than their opponents.