Monterrey and Club Necaxa played the final match of the Liguilla quarterfinals tonight, with Monterrey hoping to continue the pattern of the favored team advancing in this season’s Liguilla. Necaxa, on the other hand, looked to extend their lead and walk out of Estadio BBVA Bancomer with a win.
It had been reported late last week that Rogelio Funes Mori was not going to be able to play in this match after taking a knock and being substituted early in the first leg in Aguascaliente. However, to the relief of the Monterrey fans, Funes Mori was fit enough to start the match. While Funes Mori might be a safety blanket for Los Rayados, it is still pretty obvious that this team plays significantly better with him on the pitch then when he’s not.
The first half hour of the match featured a few decent chances for both teams as Monterrey adjusted a bit with Avilés Hurtado suspended for the match and Diego Alonso chose to go with a more defensive lineup than he usually does, with Jesus Gallaro, who has spent most of the Clausura at left back, lining up on the wing with former AC Milan defender Leonel Vangioni coming in and playing at left back instead.
Marcelo Barovero had to be alert early in the match, as Necaxa created a few chances early on and did their best to test the Argentine keeper. Angel Sepulveda hammered a free kick through the wall in the 29th minute, and while Barovero couldn’t quite hang on to the ball, the danger was quickly snuffed out as Monterrey keeper grabbed ahold of the ball.
Rodolfo Pizarro would put Monterrey on the board in the 42nd minute with a brilliant goal. After Monterrey had worked the ball down the right hand side, something that they had been doing with some success in the first half, the ball was crossed for Funes Mori. And while the cross missed the striker, it was poorly cleared and Pizarro did very well to get to the ball, control it, and get off a clean shot. His shot gave no chance for the Necaxa keeper, Hugo Gonzalez, to do much of anything to stop the goal.
Halftime came without very much more going on for either team, and with Monterrey leading 1-0 on the night and set to advance with the higher-seed tiebreaker in place.
Monterrey continued to try and dominate the ball in the second half, although the didn’t have quite the success as they did in the first half, as Barovero had to be alert on a couple different occasions. He had to come out in the 57th minute to stop a very good chance for Necaxa, and he was able to get his hands to the ball after doing very well to deny the Necaxa player a chance on goal.
Monterrey had some successful attacks of their own as well. Pabón got free in the Necaxa box in the 51st minute, but he rushed his shot and went for power and sent the ball well over the net and didn’t really come nearly as close as he probably should have.
Both Barovero and Necaxa’s Rodrigo Contreras got yellow cards in the 71st minute. Barovero got his for protesting the decision to give Necaxa a corner kick and Contreras got his for a headbutt on Pabón. The contact by Contreras looked rather light, but Pabón definitely tried to sell the call by rolling around on the ground. In the end, the referee blew for a quick foul on the corner kick, because despite his dishing out a card to Barovero for protesting, replays had shown that the ball did come off of a Necaxa player.
Pabón was taken off for Jonathan Gonzalez in the 79th minute as Alonso looked to bring on a more defensive oriented player for a more attacking player and see out the match.
Funes Mori put a blistering shot on net that would have been a contender for goal of the Liguilla had Hugo Gonzalez not done brilliantly to get up and to the corner of the net to stop the shot.
Cesár Montes and Maxi Meza came on for Charly Rodriguez and Jesus Gallardo in the 85th minute as Alonso made more changes, looking once again to put a more defensive shape in his team and rely on Monterrey’s excellent defense to see out the match.
In the end, the stronger team was able to see out the match without a lot of frayed nerves, despite the six minutes of stoppage time added on by the referee. Monterrey will now advance to the semifinals of the Liguilla, where they will once again face off against their eternal rivals, Tigres UANL for the right to go to the finals and face off against the winner of the other semifinal between Club América and Club León.