A thrilling two legs of futbol ended in penalty kicks and Club America lifting the Liga MX Femenil Apertura 2018 title.
The final of Liga MX Femenil took place on Saturday, December 15 and has received less publicity, but the accomplishment should not go unnoticed. Club America’s Femenil squad took on the previous league champions, Tigres UANL and ultimately came out on top in a thrilling two legs that was decided on penalty kicks.
The first leg was held in Estadio Azteca in front of a crowd of over 33,000. America would strike first, and strike first emphatically with a Diana Gonzalez golazo from way outside the box.
Casandra Araujo would make it 2-0 to Las Aguilas in the 71st minute, putting massive pressure on the defending champ, Tigres. However, and own-goal from America would bring Tigres right back into the match just two minutes later. The new life swung the momentum and, in the 85th minute, a botched clearing attempt fell to the feet of Lizbeth Ovalle, who pounded the ball past Cecilia Santiago to knot the game, 2-2.
It seemed the momentum had shifted so drastically in favor of Tigres UANL due to two massive America mistakes that the 2nd leg heavily favored Tigres. They would return to play in front of their home crowd, numbering 41,121 fans, officially, with the experience and talented roster to overcome their opponents. Play went back and forth for the first 45 minutes of the match, but just before halftime, Diana Gonzalez found the back of the net off a corner kick with a beautiful volley in front of the goal to put America up 1-0 at the break.
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Tigres would frantically look for the equalizer and finally break through the wall that was Cecilia Santiago in the 71st minute of the foot of Liliana Mercado by way of penalty kick.
That was all they could muster though, as Santiago put on a goal-keeping clinic to keep the game tied 1-1.
In penalty kicks to decide the title match, America would smash the first kick in to take the early lead. Tigres would begin their penalties by striking the cross-bar, but were kept alive when Tigres keeper, Alejandra Gutierrez stopped the ensuing America kick. Cecilia Santiago stopped the next Tigres shot and America scored again, putting more pressure on the defending champs. Nancy Antonio scored from the spot to keep Tigres hopes going, but a goal from Lucero Cuevas meant Tigres needed another score to keep the competition going. Tigres took their shot, but Cecilia Santiago made a huge save and America celebrated as newly crowned champions of Liga MX Femenil.
For me, Cecilia Santiago was the player of the match in this one, she was one penalty away from a shutout in the biggest match of her career, to this point.
It was America’s first ever title in the competition and their second of the weekend, with the America Fuerzas Basicas Sub-17s winning the title of their own competition earlier in the day. The win would serve as the precursor to a 13th title for the men’s side and set up a joint parade for the men and women to show off their trophies!
Congratulations to the women on a great season! Hopefully this is the beginning of immense growth for the women’s game both in Mexico and the CONCACAF region.