Even when missing two of their best attackers, Monterrey brought a great offensive display against the top seeded Santos to grab a 5-2 win in the First Leg. Monterrey seemed to have finished the game early on with a 3-0 lead but the referee ruled out the goal, allowing Santos came back to draw the game. Thereafter, Monterrey bounced back and got a great performance, even without key attackers like Rogelio Funes Mori and Rodolfo Pizarro. Santos will now need to improve a lot defensively at home, but this looks like it is settled.
The first half started with Monterrey hoping that Vincent Janssen was going to be able to plug the hole in the starting lineup left by the injured Rogelio Funes Mori, while Maxi Meza would try to do the same for Rodolfo Pizarro. And they would be on it from the second minute. Off of a corner kick, Monterrey surprised Santos by finding Dorlan Pabon outside the area as he got off an incredible long range shot to score the 1-0.
It wouldn’t take long for Monterrey to add another, off another corner kick they would score again. This time it would be be because of a terrible defensive display from Santos, who allowed Nicolas Sanchez to be wide open to head it past Santos’ keeper Jonathan Orozco for the 2-0 lead.
Santos tried to respond and almost did when Eryc Castillo had a one-on-one against keeper Marcelo Barovero, but Barovero was able to block his shot. But in doing so, once again Santos made a terrible defensive mistake, and on a great counter, Janssen found a wide open Carlos Rodriguez who scored it past Orozco. The referee went to the VAR after there looked to be handball from Janssen before eventually calling the goal off in what would have been an incredible opening 15 minutes from the home team.
Santos then got a lifeline when following a mistake by Sanchez, Julio Furch was able to get to a ball and have a counter, scoring it past Barovero for the 2-1. It went from a 3-0 potential series killing lead to a 2-1 and Santos getting right back into it.
Santos came close to getting the equalizer after Cesar Montes made a terrible clearance right to Santos’ Diego Valdes, whose shot went wide.
It looked like Monterrey was reeling, but then Santos’ defense made another terrible mistake. Once again, Sanchez was left wide open and got a free header but he hit the post im what almost was a sure goal.
Santos should have tied it when a wide open Valdes got to the area. But he did a terrible job controlling the ball and had to leave it for Castillo, whose shot was saved by Barovero. Moments later, Monterrey had a good chance when Pabon got a shot off that was blocked by a defender. The rebound was countered with a bicycle kick by Carlos Rodriguez whose shot hit the top post. Rayados clamored for a handball in the clearance of Pabon’s shot, but it wasn’t called.
In injury time, Santos came close to scoring twice, first from a cross that was deflected by a Monterrey defender and then from a shot that was blocked by the Santos defense. Then in the final play off the first half, Santos was able to tie the game. After a corner kick, a scramble in the area had Furch able to head back the ball into the area and for a wide open Castillo, who scored with a tap in header for the 2-2. At halftime Santos had gotten the equalizer after seemingly being dead with a possible 3-0 deficit.
The second half started with Monterrey trying to bounce back from the feeling they were robbed by refereeing decisions. It would take a little more time into the second half than it had in the first, but it would still come very quickly. In the 53rd minute, a cross from Pabon went past Orozco. In the ensuing clearance, Santos made another mistake, and Brian Lozano cleared the ball straight into Santos’ defender Gerardo Arteaga and it went in for an own goal, giving Monterrey the 3-2 lead.
Janssen had a good shot that was parried by Orozco to a corner kick. Then on that corner kick, Montes was judged to have been brought down by Ulises Rivas and a penalty kick was given. Although it was Nico Sanchez who should have taken it, Janssen took it (even after cries from Coach Antonio Mohamed) and scored a thunder of a kick for the 4-2.
Santos almost took advantage of a gift when Monterrey’s defender Stefan Medina made a terrible mistake and left the ball for Valdes, whose shot went just wide.
It looked as Monterrey had gained control of the game but Mohamed decided to sit back and subbed on Jose Maria Bastanta for Meza in a defensive move. But it was Monterrey who would take the opportunity of a great counter attack, when once again Santos struggled on defense. Janssen made a great pass to Pabon, who saw Orozco off his line and he lobbed the ball over him to score the 5-2.
Monterrey announced themselves as a top candidate to win the title tonight, and Vincent Janssen finally had his “arrival” game. Monterrey now have an opportunity in the away game to further prove their candidacy, with Santos needing to make up a three-goal difference without allowing goals. Moreover, Rayados is a team that loves to counter, and they have the weapons to make Santos pay. The Guerreros will need to do a complete 180 on defense and, even then it might not be enough. It looks like the Semifinal is set and Monterrey has lived up to its potential at just the right time.