Monterrey booked their ticket to the CONCACAF Champions League Final with a crushing 4-1 win over Cruz Azul. Monterrey came in with a 1-0 lead in the aggregate after the home win and grabbed an early away goal, which complicated things for Cruz Azul. Monterrey was able to handle the situation well and dominated an overmatched Cruz Azul. The match later on was marred by the homophobic chant done by the home fans that forced the game to be stopped twice, once for 10 minutes. Monterrey will now play a one game final that will be hosted by them on October 28th, as they face Club America to see which Liga MX team will win the CONCACAF Club Championship for a 16th straight time.
The first half started with both teams coming with a strong starting lineup. Monterrey struck first, and relatively quickly. After a run by Rogelio Funes Mori, he went into the area and found Carlos Rodriguez, who then quickly passed it to a wide open Maximiliano Meza. Meza got a right footed shot past Cruz Azul’s goalkeeper Sebastian Jurado for the 1-0 lead. It was a key goal, as Monterrey getting an away goal when Cruz Azul didn’t have one meant that they were now forced to score three goals to book their ticket to the final. And yet Cruz Azul answered almost immediately after a free kick in which Guillermo Fernandez surprised Rayados by giving a short pass to Orbelin Pineda instead of shooting. Pineda got a right footed shot that was deflected past Monterrey’s goalkeeper Esteban Andrada to draw the sides level. Monterrey came back with a shot that forced Jurado to make a good save. Minutes later Monterrey got back on top when Duvan Vergara got the ball and surprised by getting past Ignacio Rivero, getting a strong shot past Jurado for the 2-1 lead. Cruz Azul almost responded with a low shot from Fernandez that was saved by Andrada, and the rebound wasn’t hit by Santiago Gimenez who was coming in but was too close to the ball. Later a great pass found Vergara, but it was deflected by a Cruz Azul defender to Rogelio Funes Mori, whose left footed shot went past Jurado. The goal was called off for an offside but after going to VAR, the referee gave the goal to make it 3-1 in favor of the visitors. Replays showed that the slide was done because of Vergara, so he definitely was part of the play and it should have been called off but Cesar Ramos did another terrible decision to add to his career. Later, Alfonso Gonzalez got off a shot that forced Jurado to make a great save. Cruz Azul had a great opportunity when Pineda got the ball in the area and turned to get off a left footed shot past Andrada, but it went just wide of the post. Even if it was the first half, Cruz Azul made their first moves by subbing out Rafael Baca and Adrian Aldrete for Yoshimar Yotun and Brayan Angulo. Monterrey also made a substitution, but this was caused by an injury to Duvan Vergara, who came out for Hector Moreno. Moreno being a defender meant that Coach Javier Aguirre was looking to be more defensively with the large lead they held.
The second half started with Monterrey coming out strong with two possible opportunities that were wasted. Cruz Azul responded with a header by Angulo that hit the post in their first opportunity. Monterrey responded with a great play in which Funes Mori made a pass to Meza, who then gave it back as Funes Mori got into the area, getting off a right footed shot past Jurado for the 4-1 lead. With Cruz Azul needing five goals to get to the final, things were bleak and allowed Monterrey to counter easily. Cruz Azul subbed out Santiago Gimenez for Walter Montoya. Off a corner kick, Cruz Azul came close to scoring a fifth with a header off a corner kick.
Immediately after this, the game was stopped because of the homophobic chant after a goal kick. Minutes later, they had to stop the match again with another chant everytime they could by Cruz Azul fans. Because the chant didn’t stop, the teams went back to their locker rooms. After 10 minutes and a lot of fans leaving the stadium (not clear if they left on their own or were expelled by security), the teams returned to continue the match although the black eye to the match had already been set. Cruz Azul subbed out Roberto Alvarado and Pablo Aguilar for Romulo Otero and Juan Escobar. Off of a free kick, RIvero got a great shot that forced Andrada to make a great save. Monterrey subbed out Alfonso Gonzalez and Maximiliano Meza for Matias Kranevitter and Kaleth Hernandez. After Pineda fell in the area, the team asked for a penalty kick that wasn’t called. Monterrey made their last moves by subbing out Carlos Rodriguez and Rogelio Funes Mori for Angel Zapata and Jose Alvarado. It wouldn’t be more as Monterrey held on for the clear win, booking their ticket to the final.
It was a vibrant entertaining match played between Monterrey and Cruz Azul before it became a circus because of the fan reactions. Still Monterrey was the better team that took it to Cruz Azul, and whose early goal really gave them an advantage. While it’s true that Monterrey’s third goal shouldn’t have counted, the fact is that the 3-1 score at halftime for Monterrey was deserved as it showed how much Monterrey had outplayed Cruz Azul. The chants unfortunately stopped the momentum of the game and will steal headlines of a great performance for Monterrey, who played by far the best performance since the arrival of Coach Javier Aguirre. Cruz Azul meanwhile got a big hit to the fans who had been on cloud nine since they won the last Liga MX title, their first since 1997. Cruz Azul had also won the Liga MX Campeon de Campeones title after defeating Leon, but their consecutive trophies streak ended with their loss to Monterrey. Now they will hope to pick up in Liga MX play, but will have to do so without injured Jonathan Rodriguez, who was a big miss for tonight’s game. Monterrey meanwhile will have the advantage of getting to host the CONCACAF Champions League Final on October against a tough team in Club America