While Santos got off to a bit of a shaky start, the were able to get a goal before halftime, setting the tone for the rest of the match as they defeated Necaxa 3-1. The win further buffers their designs on going straight to the Liguilla and skipping the repechaje, while pushing Necaxa further behind the pack at the top of the table.
Necaxa started the game with the better of the possession, and wasted little time in getting the first chance of the evening, with Facundo Batista getting the ball in deep and firing a shot on goal, forcing Carlos Acevedo to make a diving save. Necaxa had another opportunity materialize in the fourth minute when a run down field by Milton Giménez lead to a nice cross from Angelo Araos, but Acevedo read the pass correctly and cut it off before Giménez could get back onto it in the box. Santos eventually started winning possession battles, but Necaxa did well to keep defenders back and nullify the chances as they came in. In the 16th minute Santos had their best opportunity to that point when Juan Brunetta went through the defense and into the box, drew some contact, and went down, however the contact was minimal and play continued.
The pace of play rapidly quickened, becoming akin to a basketball game with teams relentlessly running up and down the pitch and taking shots. In the 22nd, Harold Preciado put his head into a nice cross, but it went wide of the mark. Immediately after at the other end, Araos hit a swerving shot from the top of the box that Acevedo did well to parry aside. Fernando Madrigal had a header on frame in the 24th that Acevedo was able to snatch out of the air. Batista got a free header in the 27th on a cross in from Giménez, but he sent it well over the bar and into the stands. Brunetta had a header of his own in the 29th that just missed the mark, and then two minutes later Preciado unleashed a curling shot that just missed going inside the far post. On the following play, Necaxa came down the field and Batista was left one-on-one with Acevedo, but the goalkeeper played it perfectly, making a sprawling save on Batista’s shot. Alan Cervantes had a look from deep in the 40th minute, but despite his shot being deflected toward goal by a sliding Santos player it still missed the mark. Brunetta had a great look in the 24nd, one-timing a nice pass from Cervantes on frame but Ángel Malagón made a fantastic save to keep the score knotted at zero.
Just when it looked like it would remain at zero going into the half, Brunetta broke through getting a pass from Eduardo “Mudo” Aguirre at the top of the box and hitting a rocket through the defense and past Malagón for the game’s first goal. The halftime whistle blew, and the body language of the visitors told the entire story.
Santos started the second half hot, looking to build upon Brunetta’s goal. Before the first minute had elapsed, a shot from distance tested Malagón and Harold Preciado was played in on goal, although the ball was just out of his reach and it went over the end line before causing any problems. At the other end, it was Angelo Araos trying his luck from distance, but it went over the bar, not troubling Acevedo in the least. Facundo Batista had a look from the top of the box in the 49th, but it too went over the bar. In the 52nd, Necaxa looked certain to score when the ball wasn’t cleared and Batista had a free header from inside of the box, but Hugo Rodríguez was able to clear the ball off of the line with a header, preserving the lead for the hosts. It paid off, because in the 56th Carlos Orrantia threaded a pass in to Diego Medina, who shot it in past Malagón for his first goal of the season and second first team goal of his career.
Necaxa tried desperately to get back into the match. Batista was played in on goal in the 62nd minute but a heads-up play from Roni Prieto allowed to clear the danger. In the 64th Fernando Gorriarán hit a free kick that Malagón had to tip over the bar. Gorriarán had another look in the 68th, but didn’t get much on the shot and Malagón stopped it easily. At the other end in the 70th, a Jesús Godínez cross went through the defense in the box but didn’t find anyone in blue and was cleared out. Godínez had a look at goal in the 78th, but Acevedo read it well and tipped it up and over the bar. On the ensuing corner kick Acevedo made another fantastic save, stopping a shot from close range by Alexis Peña on the line, but the rebound went right back to Peña, who knocked it in past the defenseless goalkeeper to draw the visitors within one.
Necaxa kept working for the second goal, but Santos did well to limit their chances. Godínez had a look in the second minute of stoppage time, but his shot rolled harmlessly wide of the net. Then in the fifth minute Leo Suárez made a nice cut into the box and hit a left footed shot along the turf that tucked inside of the far post to put the game squarely out of reach for the hosts.
Santos heads to Querétaro to face Gallos Blancos on Saturday, September 10 while Necaxa returns home to host América, also on Saturday, September 10.
Santos Laguna: Carlos Acevedo; Carlos Orrantia, Hugo Rodríguez, Roni Prieto, Omar Campos; Diego Medina (Aldo López. 67’), Alan Cervantes, Fernando Gorriarán (Franco Pizzichillo, 86’), Juan Brunetta (Leo Suárez, 82’); Eduardo Aguirre (Eduardo Pérez, 83’), Harold Preciado (Cecilio Domínguez, 86’)
Necaxa: Ángel Malagón; Brian García, Alexis Peña, Juan Segovia, Agustín Oliveros; Angelo Araos (Dieter Villalpando, 66’), Joaquín Esuivel, Fernando Madrigal (Vicente Poggi, 76’), Brayan Garnica (Daniel Parra, 76’); Milton Giménez (Ricardo Monreal, 76’), Facundo Batista (Jesús Godínez, 66’)
Scoring: Santos Laguna - Juan Brunetta (45’), Diego Medina (56’), Leo Suárez (90+5’); Necaxa - Alexis Peña (78’)
Disciplinary: Santos Laguna - None; Necaxa - José Esquivel (Yellow - 64’)