CF Monterrey and Deportivo Toluca came into the match with both teams looking to keep pace in the race for the Liga MX Liguilla spots by staying in the top eight. A win would see both teams go fourth, while a loss would see Monterrey stay sixth and it would also drop fifth-placed Toluca down a spot. A draw at this point in the season would be a less than ideal situation for both clubs, as Querétaro, Tigres, and even Pachuca, Monarcas, and Leon could all realistically make up ground to make the final four weeks nerve-racking for the clubs ahead of them in the table.
Monterrey started a number of young defensive players against Toluca, as they were missing a large number of players through injury. Johan Vasquez and Edson Gutierrez joined regular first team players Jesús Molina, Nico Sanchez, and Leonel Vangioni in a back five for Los Rayados. Mexico internationals Jonathan Gonzalez and Jesús Gallardo, along with Dorlan Pabón, Celso Oritz, striker Luis Madrigal, and goalkeeper Marcelo Barovera rounded out the lineup.
Pabón had a good chance in the first five minutes, but instead of attempting to pick out a pass, the Colombian tried to split the defenders, only ending up losing the ball instead. A bit later, Pabón got past his man on the right hand side and sent a long cross to an unmarked Jesús Gallardo in the Toluca box, only for his shot to glance off of the shoulder of Toluca goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera.
Toluca’s “Quick” Mendoza had a beautiful shot from just outside the box get deflected a tiny bit and go wide in the 15th minute, but nothing really came of the corner kick. Toluca had a number of corner kicks, and while Monterrey dealt pretty well with them, it did mean that Los Rayados weren’t able to get a rhythm offensively. Instead the players just looked to just beat their man on the dribble, and while that might be a solid strategy for Pabón, it’s not great for everyone else.
Jonathan Gonzalez left the game in the 29th minute, going down injured in what appeared to be a muscle injury. The injury looked worrisome, as Gonzalez pulled up, looking as if he was grabbing his hamstring.
Monterrey was gifted a chance a few minutes later, as after Talavera took a poor punch that landed right at the feet of a Monterrey player. The shot that was taken was a looping, slow chip that hit the post, although from the distance the player was at, it should have been an easy goal. Talavera blocked the follow-up shot, and the ball was eventually bundled over for a goal-kick.
Monterrey would continue to look decent, but were unable to get the ball into the back of the net. Pabón had a free-kick that was blocked by his teammate Vasquez, one of the younger players in the lineup, in a moment that seemed to sum up Monterrey’s first half.
The two sides would remain scoreless at half-time, but Monterrey would have felt hard-done by, as they had a couple good chances to score, but were unable to get a goal.
Osvaldo Gonzalez scored a good headed goal four minutes after the restart, after a Toluca player got up above everyone else and headed the ball back across the face of goal for Gonzalez to head home. Monterrey were flat footed and looked unable to deal with the initial cross into the box, much less deal with a second header in the box. There was very little that Marcelo Baravero would have been able to do to stop the header.
Leonel Vangioni had an empty net with the ball at his head, but he somehow wasn’t able to steer it home when it absolutely looked as if it would have been easier to score then miss. After missing what should have been one of the easiest goals of his career, Vangioni then got a yellow card for diving trying to win a penalty. He was then subbed off for Avilés Hurtado in the 59th minute, right after that sequence of play.
Monterrey was finally rewarded with a goal in the 73rd minute, as Gallardo’s shot bounced off of the knee of Talavera and into the back of the net. Luis Madrigal also arrived at the same time, but his shot only made contact with the ball after it had crossed the goal line. Not a bad idea for Madrigal to hammer the ball home anyway.
Daniel Lajud came in to the match, replacing Johan Vasquez, in the 76th minute as Diego Alonso gambled by bringing on another forward in order to try and get three points and retain their place in the Liguilla places.
Alonso’s gamble paid off less than 10 minutes later as Lajud did extremely well to get the ball over the top, split the central defenders, and laid a perfect shot over the head of a well-placed Talavera that ripped the back of the net in the 84th minute. It was Lajud’s first goal in his first Liga MX game for the Rayados, after a number of good performances for Lajud in the Copa MX.
There was some controversy at the end, as Rubens Sambueza saw red for dumping Hurtado over with something that appeared to be a wrestling move in the last few minutes of stoppage time. Even a second look by VAR wasn’t able to save Sambueza from receiving his walking papers, and Monterrey merely saw the rest of the match out, even with the extra few minutes added on.
In the end, it felt like a deserved victory for Monterrey, as they had the majority of the chances, and 19 year-old Daniel Lajud’s winner in the 84th minute was an absolutely brilliant way for the young forward to score his first Liga MX goal.