San Luis Potosi, Mexico
On Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018, Mexico’s second-tier league (Ascenso MX) final was disputed between Atletico San Luis and Xolos’ affiliate team Dorados de Sinaloa at the Estadio Alfonso Lastras in San Luis Potosi. The game was set to be a very hard-fought, intense encounter, and it was just that as the title was decided in extra-time.
Heading into the matchup, tickets sold out within hours of being available to the public as fans even camped outside of the Estadio Alfonso Lastras to buy them. It was now the hottest ticket in town as scalpers at the very least tripled their profit to desperate fans seeking entry on the day of the final.
The Alfonso Lastras was lively and you could feel the intensity in the air in the stadium that holds just over 25 thousand fans. The entire stadium joined in on the chants and songs of San Luis’s supporters group, except for a small sector of over 100 Dorados’ fans that made the trip from Culiacan that were located under the watchful eye of “D10S”.
Dorados had a slim 1-0 advantage heading into this second leg, but they were going to be missing manager Diego Maradona due to a suspension. This ended up playing a huge role in the result of the clash as the team from Culiacan was clearly lacking something on the field. Maradona kept communication with his assistant coach, Luis Islas, via walkie-talkie as he watched the game in a private suite located just above where Sinaloa’s fans were.
The visitors did get an early lead in the first half thanks to Jorge Cordoba, but San Luis tied it up just before halftime as the first half ended 1-1. Maradona’s men regained the lead in the 56th minute with a goal by Edson Rivera, but Alfonso Sosa’s team scored two more goals, including a blunder by Dorados’ Diego Barbosa, who put the ball into his own net.
By the end of the 90 minutes, San Luis was on top 3-2, but the global score was 3-3 and the Ascenso MX title had to be decided in extra time. Intensity filled the air at the Alfonso Lastras as Maradona egged on Dorados’ fans to keep the faith and provoked San Luis supporters in the process as well.
San Luis fans kept on throwing objects onto the field; it did not matter if their team scored, was scored on, or if the referee called a foul against or for their team. A firework was even thrown at Dorados’ keeper Gaspar Sevio in the first half as San Luis fans tried to provoke the visiting players and fans.
Heading into extra time, both fanbases seemed to have hope, but the home team had the momentum and used that to their advantage. Leandro Torres proved to be the hero of the night for Los Gladiadores as he scored what proved to be the title-winning goal in the 103rd minute.
The stakes were high at the Alfonso Lastras and you did not need to ask anyone of the importance of the match as a scuffle even broke out between the players before the final whistle. Alfonso Sosa killed time to perfection with his team and San Luis won the game 4-2 (4-3 on aggregate) and lifted the Ascenso MX title in front of its fans. The Alfonso Lastras was shaking by the end of the encounter as the home fans were filled with joy and relief as Los Tuneros prevailed against the odds.
The fans from Sinaloa took the walk of shame to their bus as most San Luis supporters applauded the visiting fans for their effort, along with a few heckles as well. Diego Maradona did not leave the stadium without causing controversy as the local fans heckled and harassed the legendary figure on his way out of the suite. The Argentine icon retaliated with insults and shouts of his own and even managed to throw a few punches at some fans.
Maradona needed to be held down by his own security team to contain himself as he saw all the work put in this season go to waste in a couple of hours. Dorados de Sinaloa still had an impressive season after a terrible start with just three points in six games. Maradona’s work was nothing short of a miracle, but now El Gran Pez must win next season’s Ascenso MX title, then face San Luis again to gain promotion into the Liga MX.