Top seeds Cruz Azul and Chivas Guadalajara were bounced out of the Mexican Apertura Liguilla playoffs in the first round, but the two other top seeds have advanced to the final. Santos Laguna have gone through against Monarcas Morelia on a tiebreaker, following a 4-4 aggregate draw, while UANL Tigres defeated a Queretaro side that barely found a shooting chance, 1-0 on aggregate.
Though Cruz Azul and Chivas finished on top of the regular season table, many believed that Tigres and Santos were favorites heading into the playoffs. Santos' attack has been lethal this season, headed up by Mexican international striker Oribe Peralta, while Tigres' have the best defense in Mexico.
They lived up to the billing in their semifinal ties, as Tigres recorded a 180 minute shutout while Santos had to deal with yet another shootout.
The Saints lost 2-1 in Morelia in the first leg of their tie, meaning that they had to win at home in Torreon. In the first two rounds of the Liguilla, seed is the tiebreaker, so the Saints merely had to win by one goal. They rushed out to a 3-1 lead, but Morelia almost got them back with two late goals to set up a wild finish.
Santos' first goal of the second leg came in the 35th minute, as Joel Huiqui hauled down Peralta in the box. It was denial of a clear goal-scoring opportunity, and the referee had no choice but to grant a penalty kick and show Huiqui the red card. Juan Rodriguez stepped up and converted, giving Santos a lead in the tie.
Christian Suarez scored twice for Santos in the second half, netting goals in the 52nd and 64th minutes. The first was a thundering strike into the top corner, assisted by Peralta after he dribbled through four defenders. The second was an individual effort, another powerful and unstoppable shot. At that point, it appeared the tie was over, but Morelia would strike back.
Angel Sepulveda scored a header on the Gerardo Lugo cross in the 74th minute, but the tie still didn't feel in doubt at that point. In the 86th minute, things got interesting as Sepulveda completed a brace, this time scoring with an absolutely audacious overhead kick that looped over the head of goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez. Monarcas would press for a winner, but never found it as Santos held on.
The other match was considerably less eventful, with Tigres scraping through 1-0 on aggregate. They were much more dominant than the score suggests, as Queretaro only managed one shot on target and three total shots in the away leg on Sunday. Manuel Mondragon of Queretaro gifted Tigres the only goal of the tie, a terrible 43rd minute own goal. Hector Raul Mancilla missed a penalty for Tigres in the 58th minute, but they ultimately would not need that goal to go through.
The final takes place over two legs, home and away, on December 8 and December 11. The seeding tiebreaker does not apply in the finals and the tie can go to extra time and penalties after two legs.
We'll be covering the Liguilla final later this week at SB Nation Soccer. Check out SB Nation's Mexican futbol blog FMF State Of Mind for more on the Primera. For more from around the world of football, follow @SBNationSoccer on twitter.