Monterrey and Club Atlas both went into this match with their Liguilla fates already sealed, although Monterrey still had positioning to play for, with a win getting los Rayados at least 4th place in the table and the higher seed advantage in the first round against either Pumas UNAM or Santos Laguna.
Aviles Hurtado and Rogelio Funes Mori both started the match for Monterrey, with Dorlan Pabon and Leonel Vangioni rested for the upcoming Liguilla. Cesar Montes, Jose Maria Basanta, and Nico Sanchez, all started in central defense, with Mexico international Jesus Gallardo and Stefan Medina playing on the wing. Rodolfo Pizarro also started, along with Eric Cantu and Carlos Rodriguez.
The match started rather quietly, with Atlas perhaps enjoying a little more of the run of play while Rayados had to adjust to playing with each other. Medina had an early shot that only managed to send Hurtado to the floor, but otherwise there was not a lot of dangerous moments from either side.
Hurtado would affect the match in a more positive fashion later on in the match, as it was ruled that his shot was blocked by the arm of a Club Atlas player, leading to a penalty for Monterrey that Sanchez converted. Sanchez, despite being a center-back, is the leading goal-scorer for Monterrey, in part because of his aerial ability from corner kicks and partly from his ability to take penalties.
The penalty seemed to take the wind of the sails for Atlas, and both teams didn’t really put much more into the match on the way to halftime. Monterrey would have felt that they deserved the lead, while Atlas might have felt a tad unlucky to concede a penalty.
The second half was when Monterrey woke up and showed why they were considered favorites for the Liguilla going into the season.
Funes Mori showed that he was back to his pre-injury form by turning former LA Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez inside-out on a long ball into the box. Funes Mori simply out-muscled Gonzalez, nutmegged him to set up himself up, paused to allow the other defender to get out of position, and then simply put the ball into the back of the net, leaving Atlas keeper Jose Hernandez with no chance.
Funes Mori was subbed off to a good round of applause a few minutes later, as Luis Madrigal came on for him in the 60th minute. Six minutes later, both Pabon and Jesus Molina came on for Hurtado and Pizarro as Diego Alonso looked to get some of his regulars a run onto the pitch.
Luis Madrigal put the game completely out of reach in the 79th minute, as he was able to beat Hernandez from distance. Madrigal took the ball at his feet in the right channel and with plenty of space given him by the Club Atlas defender, took a thundering shot that seemed to take everyone in the stadium by surprise, including Hernandez in the Atlas net.
Así se vió desde la cancha el gol de Jefferson Duque. pic.twitter.com/WoGt7Mf1R9— Atlas FC (@atlasfc) November 25, 2018
Club Atlas was able to add a consolation goal late in the match, but Jefferson Duque’s goal was nothing more than a good ending to a bad season for Atlas. Monterrey will learn their Liguilla opponent tomorrow after the Pumas v Santos Laguna match, but if either Pumas or Santos win, Monterrey will face off against their bitter rival, Tigres.
So ends the regular season of the Apertura 2018, but this team was always going to be judged only on their performance in the Liguilla, so the “real” season for Monterrey is about to begin. Ultimately, Alonso will be judged on Monterrey’s performance in the Liguilla. In the meantime, however, Monterrey will be able to celebrate a good win at home.