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2021 Liguilla match recap: Santos Laguna 2, Monterrey 1

A come-from-behind victory as Santos will take a 2-1 lead over Rayados to Monterrey for the second leg on Sunday.

Santos Laguna v Monterrey - Playoffs Torneo Guard1anes 2021 Liga MX Photo by Manuel Guadarrama/Getty Images

Despite giving up an early goal, Santos dominated large swaths of the match and will take a 2-1 lead to Monterrey for the vuelta leg of the 2021 Guard1anes Liguilla quarterfinals. Vincent Janssen scored Monterrey’s lone goal, while Eduardo “Mudo” Aguirre and Ayrton Preciado were the goalscorers for Los Guerreros.

It wasn’t long before there was controversy however. In the second minute, Fernando Gorriarán made contact with Maximiliano Meza away from the play. Meza went down, clutching his face. Referee Jorge Rojas Castillo went to VAR, and after reviewing the incident showed both Gorriarán and Meza yellow cards: Gorri’s for the foul and Meza for simulation. Despite the early indication to the contrary, it was Rayados who were intent on playing a punishing, physical style of play. In the seventh minute a great play from Gorriarán sprung Eduardo “Mudo” Aguirre on the counter. Aguirre held off the defender and hit a shot that just missed the outside of the post.

Santos did well to press hard, not allowing Monterrey any time or space on the ball. They were able to force turnovers and keep the ball in their end of the field for a large part of the opening minutes, although the actual chances created were scant. Monterrey didn’t get many chances, however in the 18th minute a shot from distance by Jesús Gallardo was stopped by Carlos Acevedo, but he gave up a long rebound and Vincent Janssen was there to knock it home and give Rayados the lead.

Santos didn’t deviate from the plan however, and kept the pressure on. In the 23rd minute Santos got a run into the box by Mudo Aguirre, there was contact and Aguirre went down however Rojas Castillo allowed play to continue, much to the dismay of Santos manager Guillermo Almada. Rojas Castillo declined to review the play under VAR at the first stoppage after a brief delay. In the 27th a Matheus Dória header went just wide of the net. IN the 30th minute, Omar Campos this a rocket of a shot that Hugo González got a finger to and pushed up just enough that it hit off of the crossbar and went back into play. Then in the next minute Diego Valdés hit a beautiful cross that Ayrton Preciado hit a diving header in stride that hit off of the post. Aguirre then made a great move in the box in the 33rd to slip past his defenders, hitting a shot that was blocked out for a corner.

In the 37th Monterrey had a counterattack and Arturo “Ponchito” González had a chance but the ball went wide of the far post on a tough angle shot. In the 44th Gorriarán had a shot from distance that was redirected by Mudo Aguirre, but the redirection went wide of the mark. Although Santos had been the better side in the first half, they went to the locker room trailing.

Santos again started on the front foot in the second half, taking the game to Monterrey. In the 51st this was rewarded when Mudo Aguirre received the ball in the area, paused, and hit a perfectly placed shot that went past his defender and the outstretched hand of a diving González to draw the sides level.

In the 61st Jesús Gallardo and Diego Valdés got tangled up along the sidelines that got a little heated, earning both players yellow cards for their trouble. Then a minute later Gorriarán made a nice move along the sideline to evade a defender and hit a beautiful cross into the box. Mudo Aguirre dove for it and missed, but the ball wound up at the feet of Ayrton Preciado who smashed the ball into the back of the net to give the hosts the lead.

A bit of a scary moment in the 67th when Juan Ferney Otero wrenched his knee and though he was able to walk off under his own power he was subbed out moments later for Jesús Ocejo. Later Otero was shown being carried down the ramp to the locker room, a large ice pack wrapped around his right knee. Monterrey had a rare chance in the 73rd when the made a break and hit a cut-back pass to Rogelio Funes Mori, but he sent his shot high over the bar.

As the minutes pressed on, Monterrey finally became a bit more adventurous on the attack, forcing Santos to fall back and defend without the expectation of a counterattack. As the clock went past 90, a header off of a corner kick froze Carlos Acevedo but hit off of the post and went out of danger. Santos was able to hold off the late charge, and will take a 2-1 lead to Monterrey.

The return leg will be in Monterrey on Sunday, May 16 at 6:00 PM local time.

Santos Laguna: Carlos Acevedo; Omar Campos, Matheus Dória, Félix Torres, Carlos Orrantia; Alan Cervantes, Fernando Gorriarán; Ayrton Preciado (Andrés Ibargüen, 75’), Diego Valdés (Jesús Isijara, 81’), Juan Ferney Otero (Jesús Ocejo, 68’); Eduardo Aguirre

Monterrey: Hugo González; Jesús Gallardo, Adrián Mora (Matías Kranevitter, 59’), Nicolás Sánchez, César Montes, Miguel Layún; Carlos Rodríguez (Dorlan Pabón, 77’), Celso Ortíz; Arturo González, Vincent Janssen (Rogelio Funes Mori, 54’), Maximiliano Meza

Scoring: Santos Laguna - Eduardo Aguirre (51’), Ayrton Preciado (62’); Monterrey - Vincent Janssen (18’)

Disciplinary: Santos Laguna - Fernando Gorriarán (Yellow - 3’), Diego Valdés (Yellow - 61’), Guillermo Almada (Yellow - 90+4’); Monterrey - Maximiliano Meza (Yellow - 4’), César Montes (Yellow - 35’), Jesús Gallardo (Yellow - 61’), Javier Aguirre (Yellow - 90+4’)