There will be a new Liga MX king after Santos was eliminated upon losing to Monterrey at home. The Rayados join Cruz Azul in the semifinals.
So who saw that coming? Defending champion Santos was the only Liga MX team not shut out even once during the regular season and Monterrey knocked them out of the playoffs by shutting them out twice, including a 2-0 win in Torreón Saturday night.
Diego Alonso tweaked the Rayados line-up Saturday night even though they had looked decent in winning the first leg 1-0. He inserted César Ramos in place of winger Dorlan Pabón to start with three central defenders in a 5-man back line.
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Santos dominated the first half, virtually playing the final 30 minutes inside Monterrey’s penalty box, earning 9 corner kicks. Jonathan Rodríguez even skipped a shot one off the crossbar when Monterrey keeper Marcelo Barovero had unwisely come off his line and chased him around to the top of the box.
It appeared as though the Rayados might have forfeited offensive impetus with the line-up change, falling back deep in defense, but despite the crowded conditions, the disciplined marking frustrated Santos again and again.
Ten minutes into the second half, Nico Sánchez skimmed a header low toward the near post on a free kick. Santos goalie Jonathan Orozco was unable to corral the ball and it trickled into the net.
Five minutes later, the Rayados had scored again. Rodolofo Pizarro was on the left wing with time and he picked out Aviles Hurtado as he ran into the box. Hurtado trapped the ball, flicked it over a charging Jesús Angulo then fed Rogelio Funes Mori on the back side. The Argentine striker stretched for the pass and fired a low shot under the arms of Orozco as he raced to cover the post.
Monterrey closed out the game with tough defense, the occasional counterattack and several good possessions forcing Santos to chase the ball. The Rayados even had two claims for penalty that probably should have been called.
No. 5 Monterrey could face either No. 1 Cruz Azul or No. 2 América in the semifinals.
Cruz Azul 1, Querétaro 1
Elías Hernández scored 4 minutes into the match, wrecking the Gallos Blancos’ plans of a fast start at Estadio Azteca.
It took Querétaro several minutes to recover their equilibrium, but as the Cementeros pulled back and settled in on defense, the Gallos Blancos were able to return to attack mode. They enjoyed 59% of possession but were only able to get one shot on goal.
Cruz Azul – the league’s top defense – remained in their shell, but began to extend their counterattacks to frustrate Querétaro. The Cementeros held the ball longer and even squandered two chances to extend their lead.
In minute 61, Luis Romo charged in after a deflection and headed toward goal at the back post. The ball clearly crossed completely over the line but the referees missed it. The video assistant referee was summoned and after an interminable delay, the goal was given.
Fifteen minutes later, the VAR was consulted again when Cruz Azul appeared to have been granted a penalty. Replays showed Edgar Méndez had taken a dive, and since he was already on a yellow card he might have been ejected. Instead, ref Jorge Antonio Pérez Durán checked the replay of an incident before the flop and judged that Cruz Azul had committed a foul and the fakery by Méndez was forgiven.
Cruz Azul was able to play keepaway for longer periods and eventually ran out the clock, eliminating Querétaro on a 3-1 aggregate score and advancing to the semifinals.
The semifinal match-ups will be determined after the two remaining quarterfinal series are completed on Sunday. No. 2 América hosts No. 7 Toluca after a 2-2 draw in the first leg and No. 3 UNAM faces the No. 6 Tigres trailing 2-1.