León vs LAFC summary: score, goals and highlights | 2023 CONCACAF Champions League final first leg
León vs LAFC: as it happened
Peeeep peeep peeep! LAFC have got away with one here, in a big way.
Denis Bouanga's late, late goal has brought the Black and Gold right back into this tie, after a first leg in which they were totally outplayed. Indeed, León would have had cause to feel disappointed had it ended 2-0.
LAFC were poor; pretty much throughout, it was León who carried the chief attacking threat. Seconds before Bouanga's goal, the hosts thought they had scored a third, only for Osvaldo Rodríguez's header to be chalked off for a push.
Now, with León's lead cut to one, LAFC are probably favourites to go on and win the tie on home turf on Sunday. Football, eh.
Make sure to join us for that second leg. Thanks for reading!
Goal! León 2-1 LAFC - Bouanga scores!
What a smash and grab! LAFC have been totally outplayed, and were lucky not to be more than two down. Now, though, they've brought themselves to within one goal, with seconds remaining!
Palencia does very well to streak down the right and whip the ball low across to the penalty spot, where Bouanga is arriving at pace. He sidefoots home first time, netting his seventh goal of the tournament!
What a good chance for LAFC to snatch one there! Biuk thumps a cross into the area from the left, and Palencia gets to the ball first - but heads over from about six yards out! Ah, but the flag was up. Biuk was just offside before receiving the ball.
Goa... No! León think they've grabbed a stoppage-time third when Rodríguez heads Moreno's cross into the net, but the substitute is penalised for a foul on the LAFC man.
The way Nicolás Larcamón initially wheeled away in delight on the touchline, you could see how big that third goal would have been to León. As it is, LAFC still have hope despite their ropey showing tonight.
Four minutes to be added on.
Cifuentes is booked for a late lunge on Romero.
The way things are going, LAFC just need the final whistle to go. They're in danger of suffering an even more comprehensive defeat. Di Yorio, who has also been impressive since coming on, skips down the right wing and slams a low ball into the box. It runs across the face of goal.
A moment later, Campbell turns and shoots from the penalty spot... and drags his effort just a couple of yards past the post!
Both teams make a change. León bring Rubio on for Dávila, while LAFC withdraw Tillman for Dueñas.
Again Campbell goes close for León! He's looked very lively since coming on. Found in space just inside the LAFC area, he controls and chips towards the far post, but he gets too much on it! The ball drifts high and wide.
Vela wins a free-kick on the halfway line, before LAFC work it left to Palacios. He quickly whips in a low cross, but it's far too close to Cota. León clear.
Campbell pings over a free-kick delivery from the right, but Frías can't get his head to the ball.
Ten minutes left at the Estadio León. Can LAFC produce something and regain a foothold on this tie? It ain't looking good right now.
It's León who look much the likelier to score - and they almost do that not once, but twice.
First, Campbell opens his body up and curls a low shot towards McCarthy's right-hand corner, but the LAFC keeper does ever so well to get across and beat it out.
Rodríguez is first to the loose ball, and powers in a shot at goal - but again McCarthy saves! He's keeping his team in this tie.
Cifuentes feeds a ball forward towards the run of Bogusz and Bouanga, but it's too far ahead of both.
A quarter of an hour to go in Mexico. I have little confidence in LAFC's ability to get one back here, to be perfectly frank.
Vela delivers a right-wing corner for LAFC. Can they grab a goal back here?
No, no they cannot. Vela's corner is overhit.
Again LAFC just about survive. Di Yorio, the man just on, battles to win the ball off Maldonado on the right wing. He appears to clothesline Maldonado in the face, but 'play on' says Mr López.
Di Yorio scampers forward into the box and squares for Dávila, who is just muscled off it by a gaggle of black and gold shirts.
Maldonado remains in a heap on the turf and needs some treatment. He looks like he's fine to carry on in the end, though.
Another LAFC substitution: Sánchez off for Bogusz.
The outlook is really not all that sunny for LAFC right now - but they will also be well aware that they lost the first leg 2-0 away to León when the teams met in the 2020 last 16. That one, of course, ended, 3-2 on aggregate to Los Angeles.
Bouanga shoots from range on the right, and shoots well wide.
León's Lucas Romero is booked for a clear trip on Cifuentes.
Two shooting chances for LAFC. First, Palacios slaps a shot well wide from 25, 30 yards or so out.
A minute later, the MLS champions work it left to Biuk. He does well to cut inside into space to shoot on the left-hand edge of the penalty box, but can only hook in a weak strike that Cota gathers pretty easily.
León make a triple change: Di Yorio on for Alvarado, Campbell on for Hernández, Rodríguez on for Mena.
My word, LAFC are really flirting with conceding a third. Hernández skins Palencia on the left wing, before fizzing over a cross for Mena.
Mena launches himself at the delivery 10 yards or so out, but can't quite direct it on target! LAFC have had a couple of decent-looking attacks since half time, but León again appear much the likelier to score.
LAFC make a double change: Biuk is on for Opoku, and Palencia replaces Hollingshead.
It's end to end right now - and León should have a third!
After LAFC clear Moreno's cross, the visitors sprint up the field, Opoku leading the charge. He feeds it between the defenders to Bouanga, who can't quite take it into his stride. Had he been able to, he would have been in. As it is, he is dispossessed.
At the other end, Hernández drops a shoulder and gets to the byline, before cutting it back to Mena on the penalty spot. Mena is all alone, with a great chance to score - but McCarthy blocks! A crucial, crucial stop!
At the other end, Hernández curls a low ball into the six-yard box, where McCarthy darts off his line to grab hold of it ahead of Mena.
Mena catches him as the pair go for the ball, leaving McCarthy in a bit of pain. He looks like he'll be OK, though.
Again LAFC open León up; it's been an encouraging opening to the second half for the visitors. The Black and Gold work it left to Vela, who has peeled off into space on the left-hand corner of the León box. He shapes to chip it, but can only waft the ball high and wide.
There's the first moment of real danger, and it's LAFC who create it!
Tillman carries the ball over the halfway line, and is given far too much room to slip Bouanga into crossing space on the left. Opoku is waiting in the middle; if Bouanga can find him with a first-time ball, it could well be a tap-in. Bouanga can't find him, though. His cross is blocked.
Peeeep! The teams are back out at the Estadio León, and we are underway.
No changes at the break, it appears.
And in case you missed it, Sevilla beat Roma on penalties earlier on Wednesday to win their SEVENTH Europa League. As in the World Cup final, Gonzalo Montiel was the man who netted the winning spot-kick.
Some half-time reading for the kit lovers among you. AS USA's Will Gittins talks to two expert designers who have worked for Nike, Puma and Umbro.
Mena makes CCL final history
Per stats specialist Mister Chip, Ángel Mena has become the oldest ever goalscorer in a CONCACAF Champions League final. At 35 years and 130 days old, he surpasses Tigres' André-Pierre Gignac, who was 35 years and 17 days old when he scored in the 2020 trophy decider. That was also against LAFC.
Peeep peeep peeep! León go in for the break two to the good.
LAFC started reasonably brightly, but after William Tesillo headed León in front early doors, the hosts really took charge. They doubled their lead thanks to Ángel Mena's penalty right before half time, but had plenty of chances to score a second earlier than that.
LAFC perked up for a short spell late on in the half, but they've created very little and look at sea every time León come pouring forward.
Aside from that slightly better 10-minute spell late in the half, it has been a disastrous first 45 for LAFC.
The Estadio León is rocking.
Goal! León 2-0 LAFC - Mena converts!
Mena will take.. and Mena will score! He thumps it high into the net!
Penalty given! And Hollingshead booked.
Oh, hold on. Walter López is called over to the pitchside monitor to take a look at a possible handball in that Barreiro chance. It looks like Hollingshead may have handled just before Barreiro connected with the ball.
Mena whips the corner in from the right, and Barreiro is so close to making it two! Mena's delivery is right onto the Colombian's head, but he nods over the bar!
There will be three minutes of time added on at the Estadio León.
The hosts win a free-kick on the left, after Maldonado is penalised for a clumsy aerial challenge. Mena swings it into the box, but Maldonado is there to head it behind.
A second León player goes into the book: Frías earns a yellow card for a ropey challenge on Vela.
A moment later, Alvarado is lucky not to get a caution, too, when he goes in late on Sánchez.
León put together their first attack of note for a few minutes. Hernández slips the ball through to Dávila's run to the left-hand byline. On the turn, he fizzes the ball back to towards the penalty spot, but can't find a green and white shirt.
Again LAFC bring it dangerously into the León half. Cifuentes feeds the ball inside to Opoku, who has Vela darting forward ahead of him. Opoku tries to locate Vela's run in behind the León backline, but he can't find the Mexican.
Things have started to look a little bit more promising for LAFC in the last couple of minutes. They again break dangerously, with Cifuentes once more finding acres of space to carry the ball forward.
Cifuentes has Opoku ahead of him, but his attempt at a chipped pass to the Ghanaian does not come off. The ball runs through to Cota.
Carlos Vela has not done a whole lot so far, it would be fair to say.
I was just about to say that LAFC had done diddly-squat in attack for quite a while... but then they go and create something. Bouanga's flicked header releases Cifuentes into space in the right-hand channel. Into a lot of space.
He has Opoku waiting in the middle, but cuts it back behind him. Chance lost.
Tesillo is the first man into the book, after catching Bouanga with a late, clumsly, studs-up challenge. Bouanga is in quite a bit of pain, and Tesillo can perhaps count himself lucky to get away with a booking. Definite orange-carder at best.
Should be 2-0! It's lovely approach play by León again.
Receiving the ball on the left, Hernández cuts inside once more, before playing it square to Dávila. The Chilean gives a first-time return that splits the LAFC defence in two, and leaves Hernández all on his own in the box. He tries to curl the ball past McCarthy and into the far corner, but steers it just wide!
León are working it around the field nicely, with much greater composure than LAFC. On the right, Mena feeds Moreno's overlapping run, before the right-back plays it into the middle. Alvarado flings himself at the ball, but is just beaten to it by Maldonado. The LAFC defender takes a whack for his troubles, and that'll be a free-kick to the visitors.
Ilie Sánchez has to be quick to hack that one clear. León surge down the right, Barreiro thumping in a low cross that McCarthy can't keep hold of. The ball almost drops right to one of Dávila or Alvarado on the edge of the six-yard box, but LAFC get it away.
A moment later, Hernández cuts inside from the left and shoots from just outside of the box, but slices it well off target.
LAFC pop it about nicely, working it left to Bouanga. He skips past Ambriz and flops to the turf, but Walter López has no interest in awarding a free-kick.
A moment later, Ambriz is again involved when he slaps a hopeful shot well over the bar from about 45 yards out.
Stiven Barreiro pushes forward in the right-hand channel, but his ball out to Moreno is too far ahead of the right-back. A moment later, McCarthy then has to look alive to come out and claim a long punt forward, with Alvarado chasing the ball down.
Back come León, twice working it left to Hernández. His first ball into the box is repelled by Long, but when he gets a second bite at the cherry he slips it into Dávila's run into the area. He thrashes in a first-time, left-footed shot, but he drags it wide. León look like scoring every time they come forward.
That's better from LAFC, who work it right to Opoku. He throws a dummy and scuttles away into space, before fizzing a low ball into the area. It's too close to Cota, though. The goalkeeper claims with ease.
LAFC had probably started slightly the brighter of the two teams, but León very much have their tails up now. And the home crowd has, unsurprisingly, been whipped up into a frenzy by that early opener.
Mena shoots at goal for León, but McCarthy grabs hold.
Just before that goal, by the way, León had to make a very early change. Elías Hernández came on for Yairo Moreno, who was in tears. I'm not sure exactly what was wrong with him, but evidently he was injured.
Goal! León 1-0 LAFC - Tesillo heads in!
From the corner, the hosts go ahead! The ball is swung over from the left, right onto the head of Tesillo. He leaps far, far higher than anyone else in the crowded penalty box, and glances into the far corner! McCarthy doesn't even move.
That's the best chance yet, and it goes to the hosts! It's lovely build-up play on the right, before the ball is fed to Alvarado on the penalty spot. He controls and shoots... but McCarthy tips it just past the post!
Tillman isn't far away from knocking in an opener! Opoku is again involved, finding space on the right wing. He touches it inside for Tillman, who is given too much room to shoot inside the León box. He slices his shot high and wide when he might have done better.
León carve out their first attack of note. On the left wing, Moreno darts towards the byline before cutting the ball back towards the penalty spot, but nobody in a green shirt is there.
And at the other end...
From the throw-in, LAFC create the game's first shooting chance! Cifuentes has peeled off into a pocket of space on the right-hand side of the León box, but his shot is from the acutest of angles. Cota beats it out at the near post!
With those boos again ringing out, Opoku scampers forward for the first moment of danger. He drives towards the right-hand byline, but finds his way towards goal blocked by Tesillo. It bounces out for a throw-in.
Peeep! Walter López blows his whistle and the first leg is underway!
Loud boos immediately greet LAFC's first touch of the ball.
Out come the teams!
The players are out and lining up for the CONCACAF Champions League anthem, which I have to say is pretty underwhelming.
Kick-off is seconds away.
Almost time for kick-off in León!
It is pretty much time to go in León, where the home supporters are giving it plenty of welly as we wait for the teams to come out.
Before we get underway, let's take a final look at the line-ups:
León: Cota, I. Moreno, Barreiro, Frías, Tesillo, Mena, Ambriz, Romero, Y. Moreno, Alvarado, Dávila
LAFC: McCarthy, Hollingshead, Long, Maldonado, Palacios, Tillman, Sánchez, Cifuentes, Opoku, Vela, Bouanga
Will León be rusty...?
It's worth noting that León haven't played a competitive game in just over three weeks - not since they lost 3-1 to Atlético San Luis in the Liga MX Clausura 2023 playoffs.
LAFC, on the other hand, played city rivals LA Galaxy in the US open Cup a week ago.
While León are now in an off-season period on the domestic front, LAFC are right in the thick of the regular season in MLS. The reigning champions have lost just once so far in the North American league.
The Black and Gold sit one point off the top of the Western Conference, with three games in hand on leaders Seattle.
Two CWC tickets up for grabs
Ten minutes until kick-off in Mexico.
Incidentally, the winners of this final will qualify for not one, but two Club World Cups. They’ll take their place at the 2023 edition in Saudi Arabia, and will also be given a ticket to the expanded 2025 tournament.
In all, four CONCACAF teams will be at the event in two years’ time: the 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024 Champions League winners. Monterrey (CCL winners two years ago) and Seattle Sounders (CCL winners last year) have already qualified, then.
Who is today's referee?
Guatemala's Walter López will be the match referee at the Estadio León.
López's assistant referees will be compatriots Luis Ventura and Humberto Panjoj, while the fourth official will be Mario Escobar, also from Guatemala.
Canada's Drew Fischer will be the VAR.
Is the away-goals ruled used in CCL final?
Another question you might be pondering is the issue of the away-goals rule. Is it in force in this final?
No, it is not.
According to CONCACAF rules, it is used in the last 16, the quarter-finals and the semi-finals, but is then scrapped in the final. I’m sure there’s a good reason for that, but I’m struggling to think of one right now; it strikes me as rather odd.
If you're wondering where you can tune in to today's first leg in León, by the way, let me point you in the direction of our guide on how to watch on TV and online.
Green and white mosaic
León's fans are to welcome their players out onto the pitch with a huge mosaic in the team's colours, green and white. Supporters should find a suitably-coloured piece of plastic on their seat, the club says.
Pre-match remarks: LAFC's Cherundolo
“[León are] a very competitive team with a lot of quality. An atypical team than we’re used to seeing from Liga MX, a team that has their strong points in transition, physical attributes. But they can also hurt you playing good football, so it’s a very well rounded team.”
Right result in León:
“A positive result would mean any result that can put us in a position to win the cup on Sunday in Los Angeles. It’s going to be a great challenge; it will not be easy. Our players will suffer at times, and hopefully León’s players will suffer at times. I believe it will be an at times hectic, fast, aggressive game. All the things that LAFC is prepared for.”
Captain Carlos Vela:
“Working with Carlos every day for the past year and a half has been very positive. He’s our captain, he’s somebody who I speak to daily, ask questions daily about our group, about our way of playing. He’s engaged, he’s knowledgeable and he loves LAFC. He shows that every day.”
LAFC seek first win in Mexico
When it comes to today’s first leg, though, the outlook is rather more encouraging for León. They’re yet to lose at home to MLS opposition in the Champions League, having earned one win and two draws in three clashes at the Estadio León. What’s more, LAFC have never beaten a Liga MX side on Mexican soil.
León yet to knock MLS team out of CCL
This is the sixth time that a US team has faced Mexican opposition in the CONCACAF Champions League final. Mexico leads 3-2 as it stands.
After Seattle cut the gap to one by beating Pumas in 2022, can LAFC level it up at 3-3? Well, a look at the history books shows that León are yet to eliminate an MLS team from the Champions League…
The Mexicans have been knocked out by North American opposition in each of the last three seasons: LAFC in 2020, Toronto FC in 2021 and Seattle in 2022. León were also eliminated by DC United in 1998.
Pre-match remarks: León's Larcamón
“Thankfully, I’ve got my whole squad available. None of the players who might have been unavailable for selection [are unavailable in the end]; everyone is fully fit. That’s great news for us, and stands us in good stead to go out there and play our best.”
Carlos Vela threat:
“When we’re out of possession, he’s a player we obviously have to keep an eye on. He’s a player who link the play, a player who brings that bid of added quality to to the Los Angeles attack. But we’re also lucky enough to have plenty of strengths of our own, and we have top players who can get the job done in the areas of the pitch where Vela will be.”
LAFC team news
Los Angeles FC's line-up is also in. Steve Cherundolo has opted for: McCarthy, Hollingshead, Long, Maldonado, Palacios, Tillman, Sánchez, Cifuentes, Opoku, Vela, Bouanga.
Club León team news
Nicolás Larcamón's León line-up has been announced. The hosts have gone with: Cota, I. Moreno, Barreiro, Frías, Tesillo, Mena, Ambriz, Romero, Y. Moreno, Alvarado, Dávila.
Can MLS achieve first CCL repeat?
If LAFC beat León in this final, by the way, it’ll be the first time that MLS clubs have won the CONCACAF Champions League/Champions’ Cup two seasons in a row.
That would be a pretty big deal for the region’s club game: bear in mind that, until Seattle Sounders lifted the trophy last year, Liga MX clubs had won the tournament for 16 (SIXTEEN) straight seasons.
(Photo: Steph Chambers/Getty Images/AFP)
LAFC's run to the CCL final: the stats
As for LAFC, they remain unbeaten on the road in this year’s Champions League. Their one defeat came at home to Alajualense in the last 16; but that 2-1 loss didn’t matter, as Steve Cherundolo’s men had won the first leg in Costa Rica 3-0.
Los Angeles then knocked out Vancouver Whitecaps in the quarter-finals - with a comprehensive, 6-0 aggregate victory - before also dispensing with a fellow MLS side in the last four.
In a repeat of the 2022 MLS Cup final, Philadelphia Union were beaten 4-1 on aggregate. Dénis Bouanga’s second-leg goal against the Union was his sixth of the tournament, making him the overall top scorer.
León's run to the CCL final: the stats
Our colleagues at SofaScore have put together an at-a-glance look at Club León’s 2023 Champions League stats so far.
Although they’ve lost two of their six games in the tournament, none of those defeats have come at the Estadio León, where they’ve won three out of three with an aggregate score of 10-1.
Nicolás Larcamón’s men knocked out fellow Mexicans Tigres in the semi-finals - coming back from 2-1 first-leg deficit to triumph 4-3 on aggregate.
Earlier, León beat Panamians Tauro in the last 16, before eliminating Haitians Violette in the quarter-finals.
León and LAFC cross CCL paths again
León and LAFC have met before in the CONCACAF Champions League. Indeed, Los Panzas Verdes were one of three Mexican sides that Los Angeles eliminated on their run to the 2020 final.
In the last 16, León were 2-0 winners in the first leg in Mexico, but Carlos Vela scored a brace in the return as LAFC fought back to take the tie in California.
Diego Rossi’s late goal secured a 3-2 aggregate victory for the Black and Gold, who then also knocked out Cruz Azul and Club América.
If you'd like to find out more about León and LAFC's Champions League near misses, my colleague Will Gittins has put together a short look back at those 1993 and 2020 disappointments.
LAFC bid to banish memories of 2020
While LAFC are also bidding to lift their first Champions League title, this is not their first crack at the tournament final. The Black and Gold got this far three years ago, and also met Mexican opposition.
Because of covid, the 2020 final was played over a single leg at a neutral venue, Orlando, where Los Angeles lost 2-1 to Tigres.
Having made it back to the CCL trophy decider, by the way, LAFC have become Major League Soccer’s first two-time finalists in the competition.
(Photo: Michael Reaves / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)
Can León claim maiden title in first CCL final?
Whatever happens in this final, we’re guaranteed to witness the crowning of a new CONCACAF champion. Neither León nor LAFC have ever won the Champions League or, as it was previously called, the Champions’ Cup.
Indeed, this is León’s first appearance in the final. The eight-time Mexican champions have previously been runners-up in the competition, back in 1993, but at that point the trophy was decided in a four-team, round-robin final stage.
León came within a whisker of topping the group, but in the end were edged out on goal difference by Costa Ricans Saprissa.
León vs LAFC: welcome!
Hello there! The final of the CONCACAF Champions League is here, and for the third time in four years it’s Liga MX vs MLS. Mexico's Club León host Americans Los Angeles FC in the first leg today, before the recipient of 2023's continental crown is decided in LA on Sunday.
Team news should be arriving very shortly at the Estadio León, where kick-off is at 10pm ET.