Monterrey hosted Tigres UANL in the first leg of a Clásico Regio Liguilla semifinal tonight. This was the third time that Monterrey had played Tigres at home this season, and while they drew the previous two matches, Los Rayados had already gotten the better of Tigres once this season already, as they rode a first-leg victory and outlasted Tigres to hoist the Concacaf Champions League trophy only a few weeks back.
Monterrey would have also been looking for revenge for their Liga MX Femenil team, who had lost to Tigres earlier this week at the Estadio BBVA Bancomer. While it was only the first leg, Monterrey was still able to dominate the match and take a well-earned 1-0 victory into the second leg.
Monterrey almost scored from a huge mistake by Tigres defender Carlos Salcedo in the opening two minutes, as he misjudged his header, only for it to fall at the feet of Rogelio Funes Mori who was clear on goal. Hugo Ayala got back to disrupt the attack, and Funes Mori couldn’t beat Nahuel Guzman, who did well to get stop the shot.
Monterrey followed that up with another brilliant attack, this time from Avilés Hurtado, only for him to over-dribble his chance and while he was able to put the ball into a dangerous area, it only resulted in a corner kick.
Monterrey got on the board in the 14th minute after Miguel Layún got free down the right hand side of the box, only to play a brilliant cut-back to Dorlan Pabón. Pabón appeared to either shoot or cross the ball for Funes Mori, but either way, the ball went over Funes Mori’s head and Guzman didn’t react in time as the ball dipped over him and into the back of the net. A good goal to open the scoring in this Liguilla edition of the Clásico Regio.
Rodolfo Pizarro had perhaps been the best player on the pitch for Monterrey, as the midfielder had put the ball on the floor and dribbled his way into a number of dangerous areas and had set up a few chances. He dribbled past a few defenders and sent his pass to a wide-open Pabón, only for a Tigres defender to slide in at the last minute and send the ball out for a corner kick.
Monterrey had the lion’s share of possession and chances in the first half, and their lead at halftime seemed justified, and, if anything, was perhaps not by as many goals as the hosts would have liked.
The second half started out with Monterrey once again looking the better of the two sides, going on the attack and looking to pick up another goal at home before the trip across town for the second leg at El Volcán, as the home stadium of Tigres, the Estadio Universitario, is known.
Monterrey once again used their pace on the wings to stretch the pitch out and while Tigres looked to counter, they were largely unsuccessful in their efforts, as the Monterrey defense was pretty solid and the central midfield of Monterrey did an excellent job of disrupting the attacks from Tigres most of the night. Celso Oritz and Charly Rodriguez may not get the attention that other central midfielders get in Mexico, but they showed tonight how good they can be at controlling the midfield and eliminating the attack before it even gets started.
Hurtado was taken off for Argentina international midfielder Maxi Meza in the 66th minute, swapping out forward for a more traditional attacking midfielder. Cesár Montes came into the match for Pizarro in the 78th minute as Diego Alonso, the Monterrey manager, looked to lock down the match and keep the clean sheet. With Montes coming on, Monterrey usually goes to a three central defender formation, with Jesús Gallardo and Miguel Layún shifting to play more like wingbacks, which to be honest they pretty much do anyway.
Meza tested Guzman in the 84th minute with a well-taken shot from outside the box, but Guzman appeared to only have the one mistake in him tonight. And while Tigres looked to try and counter, Monterrey simply slowed the game down and did their best to limit the chances for their opponents. Layún had a nervy moment late on, with his chested ball back to Marcelo Barovero almost being intercepted, but Monterrey was able to see out the match with a deserved 1-0 victory.
While Monterrey fans would have probably liked a bigger lead going into the second leg, a 1-0 victory at home in a Clásico Regio isn’t the worst result in the world, and it’s all left to play for across town on Saturday, with the winner facing off against either Club América or Club León in the finals.