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Liga MX 2021 Guard1anes Final match recap: Santos Laguna 0, Cruz Azul 1

Cruz Azul gets a critical goal at TSM, taking a 1-0 lead after the first leg of the Finals.

Santos Laguna v Cruz Azul - Final Torneo Guard1anes 2021 Liga MX Photo by Manuel Guadarrama/Getty Images

It was an intense, hard-fought game and while both teams had decent chances it was Cruz Azul who were able to find the back of the net and will take a 1-0 lead with them into the second leg. Luis Romo was the hero of the evening for Cruz Azul, getting the game’s lone goal in the 70th minute.

Santos started out on the front foot, much to the delight to their fans. The full capacity (70% of normal) crowd was loud every time Santos touched the ball, and early on that was often. Both teams suffered a bit from nerves early on, with the speed of play not matching the speed of thought most times. Santos had the first good chance in the eighth minute when Juan Ferney Otero hit a shot from just outside of the box that curved just wide of the net. On the ensuing play, Santos came back down and Eduardo “Mudo” Aguirre shot from distance, forcing Jesús Corona to make a diving save.

In the 10th minute at the other end. Guillermo Fernández was given a bit too much space and time and hit a clear shot, however he pushed it wide of Carlos Acevedo’s net. Santos came back down the field and in the 12th minute Ayrton Preciado hit a shot that just missed the mark far post. IN the 18th minute Cruz Azul had a one-on-one with Jonathan “Cabecita” Rodríguez running at Matheus Dória. Dória played Cabecita perfectly, drawing him into the box before making a sliding tackle to poke the ball clean off of his foot.

Dória snuffed out another chance by Cabecita in the 22nd minute, blocking a shot at the point of contact in the box. Acevedo then made his first save of the evening in the 34th minute, stopping an over-the-shoulder shot by Cabecita Rodríguez. Santos had most of the possession, but the chances at goal were few and far between for the home side in the first half.

At the start of the second half, it was more possession by Santos. In the 48th minute Santos looked to have scored, but a player was pretty clearly offside and after the briefest of VAR reviews the goal was waved off. Acevedo made another diving save in the 56th minute when Cabecita Rodríguez took a tough angle shot at the near post. In the 58th, Mudo Aguirre tried a header but it went well high over the crossbar. Santos continued to dominate possession, and as the game wore on they were able to open up much more space, especially along the flanks. This allowed more crosses to get into the box, however Cruz Azul’s defense was able to hold firm. In the 65th minute at the other end of the field, Ignacio Rivero teed up a shot from distance but again Acevedo was there to make the save, pushing the ball wide.

In the 70th minute Cruz Azul broke through when Luis Romo made a run into the box. A clearance attempt by Dória hit a Cruz Azul player and fell to the feet of Romo, and he turned and fired past Acevedo to give the visitors the lead.

This took the wind out of the sails of most of the stadium. In the 85th Juan Ferney Otero had a look from distance but the shot went just wide of the mark. Cruz Azul was content to sit back and defend, keeping most players back and allowing Santos no space in the final third. Santos tried pressing up and getting an equalizer, but was unable to do so and will go to Mexico City down a goal. The return leg will be Sunday.

Santos Laguna: Carlos Acevedo; Omar Campos, Matheus Dória, Félix Torres, Carlos Orrantia (Jesús Isijara, 82’); Alan Cervantes, Fernando Gorriarán (Santiago Muñoz, 76’); Ayrton Preciado (Andrés Ibargüen, 76’), Diego Valdés, Juan Ferney Otero; Eduardo Aguirre (Ignacio Jeraldino, 86’)

Cruz Azul: Jesús Corona; Adrián Aldrete (Santiago Gimémez, 85’), Pablo Aguilar, Julio César Domínguez, Juan Escobar; Rafael Baca; Yoshimar Yotún (Walter Montoya, 70’), Guillermo Fernández (José Martínez, 77’), Luis Romo (Elías Hernández, 85’), Ignacio Rivero (Orbelín Pineda, 70’); Jonathan Rodríguez

Scoring: Santos Laguna - None; Cruz Azul - Luis Romo (70’)

Discplinary: Santos Laguna - None; Cruz Azul - None