It wasn’t the prettiest effort, but Monterrey got a convincing 3-0 victory over Cruz Azul to grab their ticket to the Semifinals. After a scoreless draw in the first leg, an early goal allowed Monterrey to sit back and handle Cruz Azul. With a very defensive display Rayados were able to stop Cruz Azul from scoring, and with late goals they settled the affair. Monterrey will now wait to see who they face in the Semis where they will once again travel in the first leg and then have the definitive match at home.
The first half started with both teams making changes from the first leg with Monterrey getting Rodolfo Pizarro into the starting eleven, while Cruz Azul got Angel Romero and Cristian Tabo from the start while Michael Estrada started over the injured Gonzalo Carneiro, although he was able to make it to the bench. Off of an early corner kick, Hector Moreno rose to get a header that forced Cruz Azul’s goalkeeper Jesus Corona to come up with a big save. After a great counter, Cruz Azul wasted a chance when Romero’s right footed shot in the area went wide. Stefan Medina got in the area, but his right footed shot was saved by Corona. On the ensuing corner kick, German Berterame jumped and got a good header that went past Corona for the 1-0 lead for the hosts. Monterrey came close to scoring again when Pizarro got an opportunity from close range after a rebound, but his shot went wide. Cruz Azul answered back with Romero getting off a shot from outside the area, but it was deflected by Monterrey’s goalkeeper Esteban Andrada. A cross into the area was headed by Carlos Rodriguez but right to Andrada, who made a good save. Off of a corner kick, an Ignacio Rivero cross into the area almost got deflected in but Andrada got a hand on it before it hit the post. Incredibly, no Cruz Azul attacker could get to the rebound before it was cleared. The halftime whistle blew, and Monterrey looked to have the match under control as Cruz Azul’s attacks looked lethargic and without much of an idea.
The second half started with Cruz Azul subbing out Rodrigo Huescas for Uriel Antuna as they needed a goal. After getting to a rebound, Romero got off a good right footed shot but Andrada made a good save. Later Escobar got off a long range shot that once again forced Andrada to make a save on. On the ensuing corner kick, Rivero’s cross turned into a shot that Andrada had to clear. Cruz Azul then subbed out Christian Tabo for Carlos Rotondi. Monterrey meanwhile subbed out Rodrigo Aguirre, Luis Romo, and Rodolfo Pizarro for Rogelio Funes Mori, Matias Kranevitter, and Maximilaino Meza. A cross into the area by Rivero was almost turned into a goal, but it was cleared before Estrada got the tap in to an empty net. Monterrey subbed out German Berterame for Erick Aguirre. A longball into the area looked to be a good chance for Cruz Azul, but Antuna decided poorly and his shot was blocked by Andrada. Cruz Azul then subbed out Angel Romero and Michael Estrada for Jesus Escoboza and Gonzalo Carneiro. A pass in the area found Rotondi, who got a left footed shot that hit the post. The rebound fell to Carneiro, who got past a defender but his shot from close range was blocked by Andrada. A shot from Monterrey off of a free kick bounced off of the wall to Erick Aguirre, who made a pass into the area where Rogelio Funes Mori scored a tap in, but the goal was ruled to be offside. After going to VAR, the call was overruled and Monterrey had scored the 2-0 that settled the affair. Cruz Azul needing three goals to go through meant that their spirit was gone, and Monterrey started to play “keep away” with the ball. A cross into the area found Jesus Gallardo, who got off a great left footed volley past Corona for the 3-0 exclamation point; a great goal that was the icing on the cake. The match ended and Monterrey was back in the Semifinals.
With Coach Victor Manuel Vucetich having a reputation of being a defensive minded coach, it wasn’t a surprise that it was mostly the approach that Monterrey had on Saturday. The early goal from Berterame pressured Cruz Azul, who needed to win the match since a tie would have also eliminated them, to go for the match. They had some chances and goalkeeper Andrada came up big for Monterrey, and yet it looked like Rayados were always in control and that they would pick up on offense should Cruz Azul get the tying goal, which they never did. Monterrey should be favored to make it to the Final, but a lot of it will depend on the rival especially if they get their city rivals in Tigres, who could be one of the teams they play against depending on the results. Monterrey should have a tougher task for them in the Semifinals, but right now they look solid and although it might no be the most entertaining, they have what it takes to return to the Liga MX Final.