Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Thu 30 August 2007

SuperLiga Final 2007

The inaugural SuperLiga reached its climax yesterday as LA Galaxy took on Pachuca in the Final at the Home Depot Center, Carson.

The Mexicans had overcome Houston Dynamo in their semi-final a fortnight ago but did so after a penalty shoot-out which ended 4-3. LA Galaxy, however, knocked out DC United in the other match, 2-0, to set up another classic US/Mexico showdown.

Pachuca took the lead 29 minutes into the Final when Peter Vagenas put the ball into his own net, but it was seen as justice done after Pachuca had dominated the early exchanges. Juan Carlos Cacho and Christian Gimenez both shared a number of chances to score up to that point without doing so. The breakthrough, however, came after a quick one-two between both players that left Gimenez free to centre a ball behind the Galaxy defence which Vagenas didn't clear as well as he'd have liked…

After that, the flood gates opened further. Pachuca found it almost too easy to split open the Galaxy defence at will with Damian Alvarez getting two golden opportunities to extend the lead, neither of which were taken.

The turning point for the Americans undoubtedly came in the 33rd minute when David Beckham suffered a knee sprain following a crude challenge from Fernando Salazar. He was forced to leave the field of play and be substituted, leaving his side ending the first half only 1-0 down but facing an uphill struggle.

The second half started better for LA Galaxy when Landon Donovan forced a save from opposing goalkeeper Miguel Calero after his near-25 yard free kick hit the target. Donovan was denied again when a firm header that looked to be going in was tipped wide by Calero in the 64th minute.

After that purple patch for Galaxy, Pachuca managed to regain control of the game again with Rafael Marquez Lugo guilty of not converting a couple of efforts. The Mexicans remained in control but couldn't find the net - something they'd be made to rue when three minutes into injury time Galaxy sent more men upfield for an equaliser. The result was a Mike Randolph shot which hit the crossbar, cleared only as far as Chris Klein who executed a fine bicycle-kick to level the scores at 1-1.

Extra time had been forced and Pachuca came straight back at Galaxy but once again the finishing was poor and some great goalkeeping by Joe Cannon ensured further goals weren't forthcoming. LA Galaxy also had their chances but after 120 minutes a winner still hadn't been found. Penalties would be needed to separate the two teams.

Vagenas shot first for LA but his miserable night was compounded when his penalty was saved by Calero. That in turn was matched by Cannon who saved from Gabriel Caballero with Pachuca's third penalty and that left the score level at 2-2. Both teams despatched their fourth penalties but missed their fifth, Donovan and Marvin Cabrera the guilty parties.

And so it went to sudden death where the tension quickly reached its peak. Midfielder Carlos Rodriguez stepped up to put Pachuca ahead, 4-3, but when Abel Xavier tried to do the same, he missed the target.

Pachuca had won the first SuperLiga in exciting fashion, setting the new competition off on a sure footing for the future. LA Galaxy, though brave in their attempt to run out champions, were left with the runners-up medals and plenty of time to wonder if things might have turned out differently had Beckham been allowed more of an influence in the game.

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