Monterrey got a 3-0 win over Atletico Pantoja in the first leg of their Round of 16 matchup in the CONCACAF Champions League. Monterrey were able to overcome a very physical side and a terrible job from referee Oshane Nation to get the victory. Monterrey will now return to Mexico, where they will travel to face Toluca before the return leg against Atletico Pantoja next Thursday in Monterrey.
The first half started with Monterrey coming out with an alternate lineup that was still very solid, as Monterrey has a very stacked squad. It took until the fifth minute when Alfonso Gonzalez came close with a shot from outside the area, but it just went wide. It also didn’t take much time for the hard fouls to appear as two harsh tackles from Atletico Pantoja came about 15 minutes in. Later Vincent Janssen got into the area and got off a left footed shot that forced Atletico Pantoja’s goalkeeper Odalis Baez to make a save. Pantoja then proceeded to get two yellow cards after the play, showing the team was very reckless in their challenges. To the surprise of many, Pantoja would have a great opportunity when a shot from outside the area by Carlos Rossell forced Monterrey’s goalkeeper Luis Cardenas to make a great save. Monterrey looked to be rattled by it, and minutes later Carlos Rodriguez got a yellow card for a harsh foul against an Atletico Pantoja player. Monterrey finally opened the scoring when Gonzalez got the ball in the area on a counter and made a pass to Vincent Janssen, who got a left footed shot past Baez for the 1-0 lead. Later Janssen would trouble Pantoja again with a long range shot that forced Baez to make another save. Then after a great run from Dorlan Pabon ended with a good cross into the area, Alfonso Gonzalez was able to time his jump well and head the ball past Baez to make it 2-0. Monterrey came close to scoring again with a long range shot by Pabon forced Baez to make a great save. Then in an incredible controversial play, it looked like Monterrey has scored a goal to make it 3-0, but the ref called a foul on the goalkeeper. Replays showed that there was no foul and that if there was a foul, it was by goalkeeper Baez. It was an incredibly bad call and the half ended with a the injustice of a legitimate goal by Monterrey incredibly called off.
The second half started with Carlos Rodriguez and Alfonso Gonzalez getting subbed out for Jonathan Gonzalez and Aviles Hurtado. Monterrey got their first opportunity of the half with a shot by Jonathan Gonzalez that forced Baez to make a save. Later Janssen would get a ball in the area, but his shot was saved by Baez. Off a corner kick, it looked like Janssen was held by Francisco Ortega but the ref missed the call, which was another mistake from him. Janssen protested and a scuffle almost happened because of the play. Monterrey then subbed out Vincent Janssen and Sebastian Vegas for Celso Ortiz and Cesar Montes. Minutes later Pantoja lost the ball and gave up a good counter that was finished with a low right footed shot from Alfonso Alvarado past Baez for the 3-0 lead. Monterrey came close again with a low shot by Pabon, but it went just wide. In the last minutes, Carlos Rossell failed to get to a cross into the area and crashed into the head of Edson Gutierrez, who immediately fell to the floor. It looked like he was hurt as it was a terrible play from a clumsy player. Gutierrez looked to not be injured but was subbed out immediately for Stefan Medina. In the last minute Pantoja got a shot but it went wide. The whistle blew and Monterrey got their comfortable victory.
With the win Monterrey seems to have settled the series. Atletico Pantoja was completely dominated, and although they had a couple of chances, they will be heavy underdogs to turn things around. Monterrey should not only be favored to win the game at home but to score a lot of goals, although overconfidence has made Liga MX teams suffer at times in the competition more than they should. Monterrey should continue to give an alternate squad an opportunity for competition including players like Alvarado, Jonathan Gonzalez, and Gustavo Sanchez against an Atletico Pantoja that showed to be out of their element tonight.