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Monterrey take first leg of Liguilla semifinals

Rayados grind it out to earn away goal and put tremendous pressure on Morelia.

Starting line-up’s

Morelia: S. Sosa, S. Vegas, C. Rodriguez, G. Achilier, C.Guzman, D. Valdez, M.Osuna, R. Millar, G. Lezcano, R. Ruidaz, A.Sepulveda.

Monterrery: H. Gonzales,L. Vangioni, N. Sanchez, M. Basanta, S. Medina, C. Sanchez, J. Gonzales, C. Ortiz, A. Hurtado, R. Funes Mori, D. Pabon.

Coming into tonight’s match-up Monterrey was a heavy favorite after their front three continued to steam roll defenses, putting a fury of attack onto Guadalajara-side Atlas and scoring six goals in both legs. Many thought they would make light work of Monarcas. Morelia didn’t fare as well in their previous matchup, barely edging Toluca on a 3-3 aggregate scoreline,only advancing thanks to Sepulveda’s goal in the 15th minute holding out a tough Toluca side.

Rayados started off slow and gave into pressure early as Morelia’s front three in Ruidaz, Sepulveda, and Lezcano made runs all over the Monterrey backline. Majority of the first half of the game may be described as miscommunication from Los Rayados players as they seemed very sloppy and very uncomfortable. Morelia dominated possession with 62% percent possession throughout the game. At minute four, Monarcas didn't convert the beautiful ball Ruidaz placed for Millar on the left side of the box, hitting the post and giving Morelia the best chance they had of the first half. That missed opportunity took the air out of them and left them discouraged after.

Once Morelia started to run out of steam, they started to fall back and tried to counter as Monterrey started to feel more comfortable slowing the game down. After about the 20th minute, they started to find some rhythm in themselves as Morelia’s chances dwindled from all of the pressing they were attempting. At minute 35, Rayados were granted a penalty. The 31-year-old Aviles Hurtado converted the penalty when he slotted it low right. Then in the 44th minute, Funes Mori slotted a shot that was blocked by the Morelia captain but the first half ended with enough damage done.

In the second half, Monterrey come out with way more rhythm, and as any Rayados’ game, it was filled with Pabon taking shots from long range. Although when Pabon is at his best, as a passer, Monterrey plays at its best. He finished with five shots but none as significant as the one he had in the 83rd minute that was on a fast break that he missed narrowly to the right. That might have been the end for Morelia.

Then in minute 91, Sepulveda got enough of a header but the El Tri prospect, Hugo Gonzalez, made the play of the game to save Sepulveda’s header and keep his clean sheet.

Great win by Monterrey, even when not at their best they find a way to win and at times that’s what defines a championship contender. They have scored the most goals of this tournament and have the best record as well, seems as the stars are aligning for them. Monarcas on the other hand need to be more inspired throughout the second leg, especially the midfielder Diego Valdez. Morelia need to press Monterrey into submission to try to pull a miracle after Rayados escape with an away goal.

Man of the Match: Avila Hurtado

38' Goal! Monarcas Morelia 0, Monterrey 1. Avilés Hurtado (Monterrey) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the bottom

43' Hugo Gonzalez (Monterrey) is shown the yellow card.

62' Substitution, Monarcas Morelia. Rodolfo Vilchis replaces Gastón Lezcano.

65' Substitution, Monterrey. Jesús Molina replaces Avilés Hurtado because of an injury.

72' Substitution, Monarcas Morelia. Jorge Zárate replaces Rodrigo Millar.

77' Carlos Sánchez (Monterrey) is shown the yellow card.

80' Jorge Zárate (Monarcas Morelia) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

83' Jesús Molina (Monterrey) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

88' Substitution, Monterrey. Marco Bueno replaces Dorlan Pabón.

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