Mexican side Pachuca - 2006 Copa Sudamerica winners - set
themselves up for further glory by drawing Chivas of Guadalajara
2-2 at the imposing Estadio Jalisco on Wednesday night in the first
leg of the 2007 CONCACAF Champions Cup final series.
Juan Carlos Cacho opened the scoring for Los Tuzos (the gophers), only to see the lead disintegrate thanks to a brace from El Tri international and Chivas hit-man Omar Bravo. But a late strike from Marvin Gabriel Cabrera brought the visitors level in an all-Mexican clasico that sets the stage for an intriguing return leg in Hidalgo in seven days' time.
Chivas hit out with the keener verve early on, not letting quick-passing Pachuca settle into their trademark rhythm. After Alberto Medina hit both the crossbar and post with a shot inside the quarter-hour, Mexican international Omar Bravo got on the end of a lofted ball from enigmatic striker Adolfo 'Bofo' Bautista in the 17th minute. But he could only lift his try over the bar under heavy pressure from Tuzo keeper Miguel Calero.
Despite heavy resistance from the home side, Enrique Meza's Pachuca drew first blood against the run of play in the 21st minute. A spring-heeled break down the right side saw Andres Chitiva - one of the heroes of the semi-final series with Houston Dynamo - beat Francisco Javier Rodriguez for pace and lay in a low cross through the goal box. Juan Carlos Cacho made no mistake slotting home from close range to send the travelling supporters into fits of ecstasy.
The Bautista-Bravo pattern nearly saw the hosts hit back in the 29th minute as Chivas began to entertain their fans with some incisive football. However, a sprawling save from Calero only just kept Bravo's searing long-range blast from nestling in the top corner. The hosts continued to pour on the pressure, though, with Alberto Medina, Bautista and Bravo connecting well as the half wore on. Captain Ramon Morales missed a golden chance by mere inches in the 38th minute, pulling a simple-looking finish past the far post from eight yards out.
Chivas' persistence paid off just one minute before the break on a classic counter-attack. Bravo, after running 50 yards with the ball, cut back brilliantly to the inside and curled his left-foot shot past Calero from 20 yards to draw level.
The home team came out from the break in smashing form, and in the 55th minute, Medina forced Calero into an acrobatic, goal-saving stop. The Colombian somehow got his fingertips to Medina's flicked shot - set up once again by the irresistible Bautista.
End-to-end at the end
The force of the Chivas attack made another goal a virtual inevitability. A fine piece of interplay between Medina and Morales picked out Bravo on the doorstep, and the El Tri marksman made no mistake tapping home into an open goal in the 66th minute for his second of the night.
Just as everything looked to be going the way of the home side, Pachuca grabbed a second goal to pull the score level just eight minutes from time. In a build-up initiated by the impressive Damien Alvarez, Marvin Gabriel Cabrera collected the ball on the right side of the box, cut inside and hammered home from 12 yards past Luis Ernesto Michel in the Chivas net to set up a mouth-watering second leg in one week's time in Hidalgo.
With the CONCACAF Champions Cup played in a 'pure aggregate' format, with away goals counting no more than those scored at home, the second leg of the final series next Wednesday at Pachuca's Estadio Hidalgo is bound to be one for the ages. The winner of the two-legged contest will move on to represent North, Central America and the Caribbean in December's FIFA Club World Cup in Japan .