Monterrey will take a 1-0 advantage in their two-legged quarterfinal series against Santos Laguna after Rogelio Funes Mori scored a brilliant bicycle kick in the 60th minute to give the hosts a victory at the Estadio BBVA Bancomer in Monterrey, Mexico.
The first half featured some rather physical play from both sides. Funes Mori had a few times in the first half where it appeared he had been fouled. He had his shirt tugged when he was going to a loose ball in the box and a different time it appeared that he was thrown to the ground. To be fair to the Santos defenders, the Monterrey players often appeared to be making the most of any contact.
Monterrey had the bulk of the chances in the first half, with Jonathan Orozco making a number of critical saves to keep los Rayados off the scoresheet. He made a good save in the fourth minute to deny a long range-screamer, and he had to come out of his penalty box in the 23rd minute to get a ball before a streaking Dorlan Pabón.
Orozco’s best save of the first half came in the 38th minute, as he managed to somehow get his glove to an almost sure own goal from a Monterrey corner kick. The ball also seemed to glance off of the post and Santos were able to clear the ball.
Santos had also created a few chances of their own, but Marcelo Barovero was up to each of the challenges, and non of the chances looked especially threatening.
The second half started much as the first, with Orozco continuing to bail out his defenders while Monterrey turned up the heat. Orozco made another fine save in the 54th minute after Pabón nearly picked out Jesús Gallardo at the far post, only for his low cross to be stopped just in time by the Santos keeper.
However, in the 60th minute, Funes Mori showed his class and ability and scored an absolute golazo to give Monterrey the lead. Funes Mori took a cross off of his chest, put it into the air right in front of him, and executed the perfect bicycle kick. The goal will be difficult to beat for the goal of the Liguilla, if not the Apertura.
Monterrey came close again in the 75th minute, but once again, Orozco was able to somehow save a certain goal as Nico Sanchez was alone in front of goal, but Orozco was able to somehow direct the point-blank shot over the net.
The rest of the half saw Monterrey dig in and defend their lead while Santos tried desperately to get a goal to no avail. Pabón received a standing ovation when he was subbed out for Avilés Hurtado, and Funes Mori also received the same when he was subbed out for Luis Madrigal. Rodolfo Pizarro was also subbed out late for Eric Cantu as los Rayados looked to try and put the game to bed in the final few minutes of the match.
Monterrey have the advantage in the two-legged series, but they will be facing a tall task going to Torreón, where Santos Laguna have not lost all Apertura and have only lost once in the calendar year, that coming back in April.
Conversely, Monterrey have only lost once in the Liga MX this season when Funes Mori has started, and that was the controversial match against Cruz Azul where Funes Mori was sent off after 22 minutes. Additionally, this is the first match that Santos Laguna has failed to score a goal in the league.
Everything is left to play for in Saturday’s match at the Estadio Corona, as Santos Laguna will be looking to defend their title while Monterrey will be looking to break out of their season-long funk now that they are finally healthy and looking to show why they were considered one of the favorites to win the league going into the season.