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Liguilla match recap: Monterrey 1 (2), Santos Laguna 1(3)

Rayados took a lead in the series late into the match, but a Roni Prieto goal lifts Santos into the semifinals.

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

Facing elimination, Santos Laguna got a goal from an unlikely source in the 90th minute to down Rayados and push them into the Liga MX Liguilla semifinal round on a 3-2 aggregate win. Roni Prieto got the series-winning goal in just his third playoff appearance as Santos advances to the semifinal round for the first time since the 2018 Clausura.

In the early minutes of the match Monterrey was on the front foot, taking the game to Santos by keeping possession of the ball in the Santos end of the field and harassing Santos as soon as they gained any possession of the ball. Rogelio Funes Mori got the first shot of the match, a contested shot that was partially blocked by Félix Torres that went straight into the hands of Carlos Acevedo in the fourth minute of play. At the other end in the sixth minute, Diego Valdés was able to lose his defender and hit a nice cross into the box that was scrambled away by the Rayados defense, just missing the outstretched foot of Eduardo “Mudo” Aguirre.

In the 14th minute, Acevedo made a fantastic diving save on a shot from Vincent Janssen, punching the ball out to safety. Santos had a couple of opportunities when they were able to gain possession, but unfortunately the possessions gained were often possessions surrendered. In the 28th, Acevedo came up huge again on a shot from distance from Funes Mori. On the ensuing corner kick, Maxi Meza was able to get to the ball and knock it in to give Monterrey the series lead.

Santos then tried to create more offensive pressure, however Monterrey seemed prepared for it and kept compact and remained patient. In the 39th Monterrey got another chance when a Meza cross found Janssen, but his shot went wide of the net. As the clock went to the 45 minute mark, César Montes went down with no contact and had to be carted off of the field. He was replaced by Stefan Medina, and the half finished without further incident.

In the second half, Santos was able to pressure a bit more to start things off and in the 52nd minute it looked like it paid off. Jesús Gallardo challenged Diego Valdés for a ball, leading with his head. Gallardo missed the ball with his head but looked like he hit it with his arm, however after a couple of minutes of stoppage on the field and a VAR review no penalty was ultimately given.

In the 59th Omar Campos made a fantastic run down the left flank and threaded a pass through the box but the touch by Mudo Aguirre wasn’t clean and the ball went out of bounds for a goal kick. Starting in the 66th, Santos had a couple of crosses go through the box that just missed connecting with onrushing players and were cleared out by alert defenders.

There was more controversy in the 85th when Santiago Muñoz was played forward past the defense. He went in one on one with Hugo González but was caught from behind by a Rayados defender and spilled onto the turf. After the play was done the AR raised their flag to rule the play offside, and referee César Arturo Ramos declined to review the play using VAR. Replays showed the play was very close, but play continued.

In the first minute of stoppage, Santos won a corner kick off of a play that replays showed might have been offside. Diego Valdés hit the ball in, Matheus Dória headed it on goal, and Roni Prieto was able to smash the rebound into the net to give Santos the 3-2 advantage in the series.

Monterrey tried to push up, but were ultimately unable to find another goal so late in the game and Santos moves on to play either Puebla or América depending on the outcome of the América-Pachuca series.

Monterrey: Hugo González; Jesús Gallardo, Nicolás Sánchez, César Montes (Stefan Medina, 45’), Miguel Layún; Carlos Rodríguez, Celso Ortíz (Matías Kranevitter, 61’), Arturo González; Maximiliano Meza (Dorlan Pabón, 74’); Vincent Janssen, Rogelio Funes Mori

Santos Laguna: Carlos Acevedo; Omar Campos, Félix Torres, Matheus Dória, Carlos Orrantia; Alan Cervantes, Fernando Gorriarán (Jesús Ocejo, 71’); Ayrton Preciado (Roni Prieto, 82’), Diego Valdés, Jesús Isijara (Andrés Ibargüen, 58’); Eduardo Aguirre (Santiago Muñoz, 82’)

Scoring: Monterrey - Maximiliano Meza (29’); Santos Laguna - Roni Prieto (90’)

Disciplinary: Monterrey - Nicolás Sánchez (Yellow - 33’), Celso Ortíz (Yellow - 47’), JEsús Gallardo (Yellow - 74’), Rogelio Funes Mori (Yellow - 75’); Santos Laguna - Guillermo Almada (Yellow - 31’) Darwin Quintana (Yellow - 31’, Red - 32’), Félix Torres (Yellow - 72’), Alan Cervantes (Yellow - 79’)