Cruz Azul looked to cement their place as a team of destiny tonight, while Monterrey were looking to embrace their status as the underdogs that weren’t even expected to get this far in the Liguilla.
Monterrey was looking to get a boost from their home crowd and to take a lead into this weekend’s game at the Azteca, while the visitors were looking to grab an all-important away goal.
In the end, Monterrey kept their third straight clean sheet in the Liguilla and now head into the second leg of their two-legged semi-final up 1-0 on the top seeded Cruz Azul.
Así fue el gol de Rodolfo Pizarro para poner el 1-0 de Rayados sobre Cruz Azul: pic.twitter.com/h5Vdb6u6SX— Orgullo De Ser Rayado (@_ODSROficial) December 6, 2018
Los Rayados didn’t wait long to get the scoring started, as they scored in the fourth minute. Dorlan Pabón had gathered the ball out on the right-hand side of the pitch, just outside of the penalty box, after he had a cross blocked. Pabón had time and space and he put a picture-perfect cross to the head of Rodolfo Pizzaro, who was able to direct the header past the helplessly outstretched hands of “Chuy” Corona.
Monterrey would come close a few more times in the first twenty minutes, as they put a few more balls in the six-yard box, only for no Monterrey player to be near enough to be able to connect and create another goal.
Monterrey would continue to press, but Cruz Azul would get back into the match, although they would still need some last-ditch defending from Pablo Aguilar to derail more than one good Monterrey attack.
The match remained tight in the second half, with Monterrey looking to break while Cruz Azul got back to their game and started to turn up the pressure.
Cesar Montes was introduced in the 64th minute as Diego Alonso looked to lock down the match and keep the clean sheet and the first-leg win.
However, the pressure from Cruz Azul would still amp up. Marcelo Barovero made a fantastic diving save in the 67th minute in the Monterrey penalty box, denying an almost certainly goal as there was a wide-open Cruz Azul player just waiting to receive the pass.
Rogelio Funes Mori came very close in the 72nd minute after Jesus Gallardo had gotten control of a loose ball from a set piece and crossed it from the left to Funes Mori in the box. Funes Mori chested the ball and it sat up for him to volley, only for the shot to miss the top corner of the net.
Gallardo was taken off soon after, with Avilés Hurtado taking his place. Gallardo had a fine match on both ends of the pitch, while Hurtado’s pace and finishing would keep Cruz Azul from pushing much further up the pitch as Monterrey would be able to counter more effectively.
Funes Mori came close again in the 82nd minute, as his low shot from outside the box slid past Corona, only to hit off the post and bounce harmlessly into touch.
Monterrey did well to limit the rest of the chances the rest of the way, and Cruz Azul weren’t able to get on the scoreboard. The second leg will played on Saturday night at the Azteca, with los Rayados looking to keep another clean sheet and a ticket to the final.