Heading into the international break, Santos was given a golden opportunity: win against their regional rivals FC Juárez and they’d all but cinch up a spot in the Liguilla, skipping the repechaje. Juárez meanwhile needed the points to get back into the repechaje hunt, however couldn’t overcome a tough Santos side in their fortress TSM as Los Guerreros won 2-0.
Both sides started off well, getting some early chances that didn’t fully materialize. Juárez had the first sniff of an opportunity when a ball into the box in the first minute just missed the sliding attempt of Darwin Machís. Then in the sixth minute Harold Preciado had a shot from distance that forced Alfredo Talavera to make a diving stop. In the 13th minute a bit of controversy when Diego Medina went into the box chasing a ball, and was cleaned out by Carlos Salcedo. The partisan home crowd thought it was a penalty, but referee Óscar Macías Romo and the VAR booth did not, and play was allowed to continue.
Juárez kept pressure on Santos for most of the early parts of the half, but Santos did well to not really let any chances materialize and did enough offensively to keep them honest. Juárez neutralized any chances Santos had with their physicality, not shying away from contact and using the body to knock players off of the ball. Santos had a good chance off of a free kick in the 27th minute when Fernando Gorriarán’s shot appeared to hit Darwin Machís in the arm. Initially play was allowed to continue, but on stopping play Macías Romo went to the VAR booth and ruled it a penalty, showing Machís a yellow card for the infraction. Harold Preciado converted the shot from the spot and Santos was up after the first half hour of play.
Juárez had an opportunity to equalize in the 37th when a cross went into the box toward two players, but Alan Medina got to it and headed it well off-target. Then in the 39th a cross into the box from Juárez deflected off of Alan Cervantes and on goal, but a fantastic reaction save from Carlos Acevedo kept the ball out of the net. Juan Brunetta had a rip from the top of the box in the 44th minute, but Alfredo Talavera did well to stop the chance. Then as the half lapsed into added time, Gorriarán sent in what looked initially like a shot until Harold Preciado raced forward and got a touch on it to re-direct it, however it wasn’t enough to put it on frame. After two rather uneventful minutes of stoppage, the sides went into the locker rooms with Santos sitting on a 1-0 lead.
Juárez tried to nab an early goal in the second half when Gabriel Fernández made a run in on goal, but Carlos Acevedo made a fantastic stop on the attempt. At the other end Talavera made a great save of his own in the 49th on a shot from Diego Medina. The rebound fell to Harold Preciado, whose shot was blocked. A follow-up shot was also blocked by the Juárez defense in a hectic scramble. In the 53rd Medina tried his luck from distance but the shot went well over the bar and into the stands.
Both sides changed some personnel up top, but the effect at first was negligible. Juárez had a decent chance in the 66th when a floated cross into the box was headed by Dario Lezcano, but it went well wide of the net. Santos threatened a bit in the 70th minute, but couldn’t find a way to pull the trigger on a shot, eventually getting something on frame from distance that Talavera stopped easily. Javier Correa made a nice run down the right Flank in the 73rd minute, but the resulting shot was mis-hit, sending it into the crowd behind the goal.
In the 77th minute, Roni Prieto made a nice run from the back, faked out two defenders, cut back, and hit a shot with his left foot that was blocked by a third. Then in the 79th minute off of a corner, Alan Cervantes hit a shot that got past Talavera, but was cleared off of the line by a defender. Two minutes later Leo Suárez sent a laser of a free kick just wide of the near post.
Lezcano had a chance to tie it up in the 84th when he got onto a header into the box, but he couldn’t quite re-direct it on frame. Juárez kept trying to pressure Santos, but Santos did well to protect the lead. Santos also did well into baiting Juárez players to committing fouls, allowing the home side to run time off of the clock. Then deep into stoppage time, Omar Campos hit a shot from the left flank that Talavera made a diving save on, however the rebound went straight to Javier Correa, who fired the ball into the back of the net to seal the victory for the home side.
Both teams are off next week for the international break. Santos ends the season with a home match against Mazatlán on Sunday, October 2 while Juarez hosts Pumas on Friday, September 30 in what could be their final match of the year.
Santos Laguna: Carlos Acevedo; Carlos Orrantia, Félix Torres, Roni Prieto, Omar Campos; Diego Medina (Rivaldo Lozano, 78’), Alan Cervantes, Fernando Gorriarán (Aldo López, 79’), Juan Brunetta (Andrés Ávila, 86’); Eduardo Aguirre (Leo Suárez, 60’), Harold Preciado (Javier Correa, 59’)
FC Juárez: Alfredo Talavera; Javier Nevárez, Emiliano Velázquez, Carlos Salcedo, Maximiliano Olivera; Alan Medina (Dario Lezcano, 58’), Javier Salas (Denzell García, 46’), Fernando Arce (Carlos Fierro, 82’); Jesús Dueñas, Gabriel Fernández, Darwin Machís (Mauro Lainez, 58’)
Scoring: Santos Laguna - Harold Preciado (penalty - 29’), Javier Correa (90+4’); FC Juárez - None
Disciplinary: Santos Laguna - Harold Preciado (Yellow - 56’); FC Juárez - Darwin Machís (Yellow - 29’), Javier Salas (Yellow - 33’), Fernando Arce (Yellow - 80’)