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Match recap: Cruz Azul 3, Santos Laguna 2

A 3-2 loss at Estadio Azteca sees Santos into the repechaje.

Gibran Lajud (L) of Santos battles for the ball against Rodolfo Rotondi (R) of Cruz Azul during the 17th round match between Cruz Azul and Santos Laguna as part of the Torneo Clausura 2023 Liga MX at Azteca Stadium on April 29, 2023 in Mexico City, Mexico. Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images

(Editor’s note: an earlier version of this story indicated Santos missed out on the repechaje. It’s been updated to reflect Santos making the repechaje with Querétaro’s ineligibility to participate in the tournament.)

With Querétaro ineligible for the repechaje, Santos came into the match guaranteed a spot in the post-season tournament. After Pumas and Xolos lost and San Luis drew, all they needed was a good performance to go into the repechaje with some momentum. Instead, Santos came out flat and lost 3-2 and to add injury to insult, Carlos Acevedo missed the match injured, breaking a streak of 58 straight games started.

Cruz Azul started out on the front foot, keeping possession in Santos’ end and getting a couple of early set pieces. Nothing terribly threatening came of it though, and Santos was able to get their legs underneath them. Santos however had communication issues, with players sometimes directing traffic when confusion set in. It wasn’t confusion however that net Cruz Azul their first goal, it was a blast from about 25 yards out from Augusto Lotti that beat Gibran Lajud clean to put the hosts up in the 30th minute.

Santos tried to get one back immediately when Jair González hit a cross in to Juan Brunetta, but his header went well over the crossbar. In the 40th minute Rodrigo Huescas got free in the box and roofed one over Lajud to double the lead for La Maquina.

Santos almost drew one back in stoppage time but Harold Preciado’s shot hit the post and deflected out. A minute later Preciado was involved in a collision with Jesús “Chuy” Corona, and both players spent a couple of minutes with their respective training staffs. Both were able to continue, however the half was ended not too long after play resumed.

Santos looked much more organized at the start of the second half, immediately earning a corner kick. Matheus Dória’s header however went straight at Chuy Corona and was easily stopped. Juan Brunetta hit a shot in the 50th minute but Corona was positioned well and made the tough save look easy. Four minutes later Rodolfo Rotondi was played in and Lajud came way off of his line, but Rotondi’s chip just missed the far post by inches. Brunetta had another good look in the 58th minute but pushed his shot about a foot wide of the net. Those missed chances came back to hurt Santos when Huescas forced a turnover in the box and found Uriel Antuna, who zipped one in past Lajud in the 63rd minute for the game’s third goal.

Both teams had a couple of decent chances, the best of which may have been in the 83rd minute when Félix Torres headed a ball into the box that deflected off of a defender. Players shouted for a handball, but replays showed that it pretty clearly hit the defender in the stomach and not in the arm. In the 85th it looked like Harold Preciado scored on a header but he was clearly offside and the goal was rightly called off. In the 86th Santos finally broke through on a goal from Diego Medina after he corralled a rebound with space and time in the box and knocked it into the back of the net.

Then a couple of minutes later Huescas pulled down 10 in the box and while play continued for a long time, Luis Enrique Santander eventually went for a VAR review at the stoppage and ruled a penalty. Javier Correa stepped up and smashed it into the back of the net to draw Santos within one.

Santander awarded three minutes of stoppage time, and Santos was not able to pull out another goal, losing 3-2.

Cruz Azul: Jesús Corona; Carlos Rodríguez, Julio César Domínguez, Rafael Guerrero, Juan Escobar; Augusto Lotti (Michael Estrada, 82’), Rodolfo Rotondi (Christian Tabó, 72’), Rodrigo Huescas (Joaquín Martínez, 90+1’) , Erik Lira (Ramiro Carrera, 72’); Uriel Antuna, Ignacio Rivero (Jesús Escoboza, 72’)

Santos Laguna: Gibran Lajud; Omar Campos, Félix Torres (Hugo Rodríguez (87’), Matheus Dória, Raúl López; Salvador Mariscal (Diego Medina, 73’), Jair González (Javier Correa, 73’), Emerson Rodríguez, Juan Brunetta; Lucas González (Aldo López, 57’), Harold Preciado

Scoring: Cruz Azul - Augusto Lotti (30’), Rodrigo Huescas (40’), Uriel Antuna (63’); Santos Laguna - Diego Medina (86’), Javier Correa (90+2’ - penalty)

Disciplinary: Cruz Azul - None; Santos Laguna - None