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Match recap: Santos Laguna 3, Toluca 1

Santos picks up three critical points with a home win against Toluca.

Diego Medina of Santos celebrates with teammates after scoring the team’s second goal during the 16th round match between Santos Laguna and Toluca as part of the Torneo Apertura 2023 Liga MX at Corona Stadium on November 5, 2023 in Torreon, Mexico. Photo by Manuel Guadarrama/Getty Images

Santos started the match out on the front foot. Harold Preciado in particular looked dangerous, making several forays into the Toluca end however he was unable to make much of the early possession. In the eighth minute of play there was a scary collision in the midfield between Hugo Rodríguez and Juan Pablo Domínguez, where the players clashed knees. After being checked out on the turf, both players were able to continue for the next sequence, however Rodríguez went down on the next play and had to come out of the match. Minutes later Juan Francisco Brunetta was brought down just outside of the box, however the resulting free kick was sent well into the stands.

Santos kept the pressure on, with Toluca satisfied to sit back and wait for opportunities to counterattack. Duván Vergara registered the game’s first shot on goal in the 21st minute, but it went straight to Tiago Volpi for an easy save. Preciado had a great opportunity in the 25th but Volpi was positioned well and absorbed the shot well. A minute later Vergara made a nice run into the box but lost his footing and the ball rolled harmlessly out of bounds. Another Brunetta free kick in the 29th almost lead to a goal, but the ball missed both Félix Torres and Roni Prieto on its way through the box. In the 35th minute however Jesús Piñuelas conceded another free kick in a dangerous area, and Brunetta scooped the free kick into a perfect spot, far enough away that Volpi couldn’t get to it. Félix Torres however was able to get to it, heading it in for the opening goal.

Santos kept the pressure on. In the 40th minute Omar Campos tried his luck with a shot from distance, the ball swerving just wide of the net. As the match went into first half stoppage time, Brunetta made a run through the entirety of the Toluca midfield and threaded a pass into Preciado. Volpi again stood his ground however and made the crucial stop. Brunetta floated another free kick into the area just before time was called on the half, but Roni Prieto’s volley didn’t hook nearly enough to come back on goal and Santos took their one goal lead into the locker room.

Santos picked up where they left off, getting an early chance in the second half when a ball was lofted into the area toward Emerson Rodríguez. Rodríguez drew plenty of contact in the air but nothing was called, and the resulting shot by Santos was deflected out for a corner. There was some back and forth play but in the 59th minute a nice passing sequence from Brunetta to Preciado to Alan Cervantes and finally to Diego Medina saw the 22 year old bag his first goal of the season.

Four minutes later Brunetta finally was rewarded for his hard work, getting onto a nice backheel pass from Preciado and tucking a shot just inside of the far post for his eighth of the season.

Toluca tried to get back into the match, applying pressure for what seemed like the first time in the game. In the 68th minute Juan Pablo Domínguez hit a rocket from distance that Carlos Acevedo did well to stop. Minutes later Santos broke down field however, with Emerson Rodríguez getting in on Volpi, who was forced to make another magnificent save. In the 70th minute a long range blast was stopped by Acevedo. A minute later Domínguez made a nice run and took a shot at goal, but Acevedo read it well and stopped the shot from close range. Acevedo made another fantastic save in the 72nd, stopping Marcel Ruiz from point blank range. Tempers flared in the 77th minute, when Javier Correa slid tackled Maxi Araújo in the box. Referee Víctor Cáceres whistled for a penalty, which drew both sides toward the referee to plead their case. Carlos Acevedo wen away from the fray and stomped on the penalty spot, drawing Jesús Angulo over to push Acevedo, who turned around and launched Angulo several yards backwards, starting the melee. Cooler heads prevailed however, and once tempers had cooled Cáceres was able to review the play with VAR. After briefly reviewing the tackle and Acevedo’s behavior, the penalty was overturned.

Toluca pulled one back two minutes into stoppage when 11 sent a pass in to 31, who was able to get a touch onto it, knocking it to Tomás Belmonte. Belmonte hit a quick shot past Acevedo, spoiling the clean sheet.

It was however too little, too late and Santos picked up three huge points heading into the final two games of the season. Santos will head east to Monterrey to face Rayados on Wednesday, November 8 before finishing the season in San Luis Potosí against Atlético San Luis on Saturday, November 11. Toluca meanwhile heads to Mazatlán to finish the season on Friday, November 10 against Los Cañoneros.

Santos Laguna: Carlos Acevedo; Ismael Govea (Raúl López, 74’), Félix Torres, Hugo Rodríguez (Roni Prieto, 14’), Omar Campos; Aldo López, Alan Cervantes; Emerson Rodríguez (Jair González, 75’), Juan Brunetta, Duván Vergara (Diego Medina, 46’); Harold Preciado (Javier Correa, 74’)

Toluca: Tiago Volpi; Andrés Mosquera (Jean Meneses, 56’), Valber Huerta, Jesús Piñuelas (Brian García, 46’), Abraham Villegas (Pedro Garay, 87’); Jesús Venegas (Jesús Angulo, 46’), Marcel Ruiz, Tomás Belmonte; Juan Pablo Domínguez, Iván López (Robert Morales, 56’), Maxi Araújo

Scoring: Santos Laguna - Félix Torres (35’), Diego Medina (59,), Juan Brunetta (63’); Toluca - None

Disciplinary: Santos Laguna - Juan Brunetta (Yellow - 7’), Carlos Acevedo (Yellow - 77’), Omar Campos (Yellow - 89’); Toluca - Jesús Piñuelas (Yellow - 33’), Maxi Araújo (Yellow - 79’)