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One Night in Mexico: The Greatest Football Story Ever Told

America vs Pachuca 2018
Flickr - Sibas Carvajal

Liga MX has always been known for its excitement, and Jornada 17 of the 2017 Clausura season gave us PLENTY of excitement.  Fans from across Mexico, across the US, and across the entire world were treated to a few precious hours of absolute insanity, that not only brought us all to the edge of our seats but also acted as a reminder as to why we love Liga MX.

It sounds cliché, but this was the type of night that truly could only happen in Mexico.  For many of you reading this, the memory of that glorious night is still fresh in your mind; but this story is not one meant for the day, or the week.  Fans will fondly remember this day for years and years to come, and personally I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.  No matter when you’re reading this, come take a walk with me down memory lane, and let me tell you the tale of Jornada 17: The Greatest Football Story Ever Told.

5:00 PM Mexican Central Time: Tigres vs Querétaro

The night began innocently enough.  Heading into the final week of the season, Tigres needed a victory to secure their playoff berth.  Querétaro, while mathematically alive, required a 6-goal victory in order to have even a remote shot at the playoffs.  Tigres rushed out to a very hot start, thanks to an early goal from Andre-Pierre Gignac and a golazo from Luis “Chaka” Rodriguez, putting them up 2-0 after just 12 minutes.  They would carry this lead into halftime.

Querétaro’s Camilo Sanvezzo scored just two minutes into the second half to pull the score back to 2-1, giving the Tigres faithful a big scare in the process.  However, Los Gallos had not truly seized the momentum, and Tigres quickly pounded in a response, with Isamel Sosa rebounding off a blocked laser-beam from Gignac.  The Frenchman scored his second of the night a few minutes later, putting the game to bed.  Gignac would complete the hat-trick in the 77th minute, and Tigres ended the night with a comprehensive 5-1 victory, as well as a place in the liguilla.

7:00 PM Mexican Central Time: León vs Cruz Azul

After Tigres’ victory, only one playoff spot remained, and León and Cruz Azul were both eliminated from contention.  Despite that, this match still provided a nice appetizer to the slew of night games that fans knew were on the way.  It was another game full of early action; Mauro Boselli got the scoring underway with a 5th minute penalty, putting León ahead 1-0.  Cruz Azul would not be down for long though, as Jorge Benitez somehow managed to turn a botched free-kick into a fantastic chance, and slotted home the equalizer in the 9th minute.  The score would remain 1-1 for the rest of the half, though León applied heavy pressure and controlled the game.

In the second half, it looked like Cruz Azul were about to come down with a case of the Cruz Azuls; they quickly earned a penalty, which of course Ángel Mena completely flubbed, sending his shot straight into William Yarbrough’s arms.  The cards seemed to be lining up for a typical La Maquina meltdown, but Francisco Silva had other ideas.  A mere few minutes after the missed penalty, the Chilean unleashed a lightning bolt from outside the area straight into the top left corner.  An angry Yarbrough kicked the ball away in disgust, fully aware he had no chance at a save.  Silva would later get a red card in the 92nd minute, but by then the damage was done.  Cruz Azul ended their season on a high note, and gave themselves a small boost for next year’s relegation battle in the process.

The Scenario

Before we dive into those 9PM games, let’s take a quick look at the state of things at this point in time.  There remained just one playoff spot available, and América were in the driver’s seat with 24 points.  Also in the hunt were Morelia, Pachuca, and Veracruz, all with 21 points.  Simultaneously, Morelia were in a relegation dogfight with Chiapas; Los Monarcas were ahead by just one point heading into the final weekend.  With that cleared up, let’s dive in!

9:00 PM Mexican Central Time: América vs Pachuca, Atlas vs Chiapas, Monterrey vs Morelia, and Tijuana vs Veracruz

One last thing that I must squeeze in before we start the juicy stuff; there was actually a fifth game taking place at this time, but it was a dead rubber between Necaxa and Chivas.  The game ended 0-0, and according to all three people who actually watched it, nothing of note happened.

Now then, let’s relive this magical journey in “real-time,” and enjoy the absolute chaos that is the next two hours.

1′ The matches kick off, América are holding down the last playoff spot, while Chiapas are in line to get relegated.

10′ Christian “Hobbit” Bermudez puts Jaguares out in front of Atlas with a magnificent goal.  For the moment, Jaguares are safe, while Morelia are in peril of being relegated.

19′ Pachuca get on the board against América, as Jonathan Urretaviscaya scores via a nifty chip.  Pachuca still need another goal, as América hold the goal differential tiebreaker over Los Tuzos.

21′ Monterrey scores, but the goal is (correctly) called back for offsides.  Morelia fans briefly suffer heart attacks as a result.

27′ Monterrey score again, and again it is waved back for offsides.  Morelia look a complete mess, and a goal is nowhere in sight.

30′ Morelia score on a full-field counter-attack, not only bringing them to safety but also launching them into the 8th and final playoff spot thanks to América’s slip-up.

32′ Urretaviscaya taps home his second of the night, pouncing on a rebound, putting Pachuca ahead by two.  They’ve now passed América, but still are in 9th, as Morelia hold the playoff spot.

45′ Halftime.  Morelia, despite being heavily outplayed by Rayados, are safe from relegation AND in the playoffs at this point.  Pachuca are ahead 2-0 at Azteca against América, and are hoping for Morelia to slip up.  América only need a draw to pass Morelia, and are still very much alive.  Jaguares have no control, as with the current results even a win against Atlas cannot save them.  Veracruz, needing five second half goals to even have a chance at the playoffs, are effectively eliminated.

62′ Manuel Perez comes off the bench for América.  Perez has played about an hour of top flight football in 2017.

67′ Fresh off the bench, Manuel Perez bangs one in for Las Aguilas, making the score 2-1.

69′ Perez scores again, tying the game at 2-2.  America are now in the playoffs thanks to the one point earned from the draw.

78′ Oscar Murillo scores on a header, putting Pachuca ahead 3-2.  Morelia regain the playoff spot, but this sets up a crazy final 10 minutes.  América need to score in order to pass Morelia, and Pachuca need to score to pass América.  Pachuca also need Morelia to falter, but obviously since that is out of their control, they will push to make it 4-2 regardless.

84′ Monterrey rightly earn a penalty after a horrendous foul in the box.  Dorlan Pabón buries it, pushing Morelia down into the relegation zone.  Chiapas are now safe, with just a few minutes left in the season.  América are in the final playoff spot, but Pachuca only need one more goal to leap past Las Aguilas and make it to the liguilla.

91′ With his club on the brink of death, Raul Ruidiaz, “The Peruvian Messi,” scores a dramatic game winner for Morelia, simultaneously saving them from relegation and launching them into the playoffs.  América and Chiapas are left stunned, their liguilla place and safety, respectively, swiped from right out of their fingers at the last moment.  The goal also gives Ruidiaz his second straight Liga MX golden-boot award, cementing his status as a Monarcas Morelia legend after just a single calendar year in the red and gold.

At the end of the night, it’s Monarcas Morelia who emerge the biggest winners, and they now look to continue this miracle run into the post-season, where they’ll meet top seeded Tijuana in the first round.  Your final scorelines for the 9 o’clock games:

América 2-3 Pachuca

Monterrey 1-2 Morelia

Atlas 0-1 Chiapas

Tijuana 1-0 Veracruz

Necaxa 0-0 Chivas

And that, folks, is the story of one of the greatest, if not the greatest night in the history of football, Mexican or otherwise.