Rangers-linked midfielder Jose Cifuentes played the entire game as current side LAFC suffered defeat in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League Final clash with Leon.

The 24-year-old midfielder received a second-half yellow card in the Mexican leg of the final, with LAFC losing 2-1 to Leon in the Bajío region of central Mexico.


There was late drama in the match as Gabonese forward Denis Bouanga – who you might remember was linked to Rangers last summer – netted deep into injury time to keep LAFC’s Champions League hopes alive.

Jose Cifuentes started in midfield for LAFC alongside another familiar name in Timothy Tillman, who is the brother of former Ibrox loanee Malik.

But the Ecuadorean World Cup star couldn’t prevent his side falling behind to an early William Tesillo header; the LAFC number 20 getting caught under the defender’s powerful jump from an in-swinging corner.

Jose Cifuentes and LAFC Leon late show rescues hopes

Things went from bad to worse for LAFC and Cifuentes when Leon pressure eventually told in first-half injury time and the Mexican outfit were awarded a penalty for a handball in the box.

This was duly dispatched by fellow Ecuadorean Angel Mena and, truth be told, LAFC and Cifuentes were lucky to only be two down at the interval, much of this due to an inspired showing by goalkeeper John McCarthy.

That inspired display continued into the second half, with McCarthy making a string of huge saves for LAFC and Leon spurning a host of incredible chances.

Rangers-linked Cifuentes was then shown a yellow card for a frustrated and harsh challenge into the back of Lucas Romero as the minutes ticked down.

But, with the game deep into injury time, up popped Denis Bouanga to keep LAFC’s Champions League hopes alive, with the forward finishing first time after a low cross into the six-yard box.

Leon v LAFC - Concacaf Champions League 2023
Photo by Cesar Gomez/Jam Media/Getty Images

Overall, it was an uninspiring showing from Cifuentes in the middle of the park, the midfielder rated only 6.2 by FotMob in the game, making him LAFC’s joint lowest performer alongside right-back Ryan Hollingshead.

With a pass accuracy of only 68% (19/28), the Ecuadorean won just three out of eight ground duals and lost both duals he was involved in whilst in the air, in what was a disappointing game for the Ibrox target.

Rangers patiently awaiting Champions League outcome

The Gers have been extensively linked with a move for 24-year-old Cifuentes this summer, with the latest reports suggesting a deal is edging ever closer.

Reports in the player’s homeland have also claimed that Rangers will complete a deal for Cifuentes once LAFC and Leon complete what is a wide open CONCACAF Champions League Final in California next week.

The second leg is set to take place on Sunday evening in the US, with everything clearly still to play for.

Given Cifuentes’ previous links to Manchester City, and the competition Rangers reportedly face to sign him, a move for the LAFC midfielder would be something of a major coup.

Related Topics