The Rayados spanked Sporting KC once again and will face crosstown rivals Tigres in the Concacaf Champions League Final.
Monterrey cruised past Sporting Kansas City to advance to the finals of the Concacaf Champions League and Thursday night’s 5-2 win earns the Rayados the right to host the second leg of the series at home. The final pits the Tigres against Monterrey in a two-legged Clásico Regiomontano.
Sporting KC scored 5 minutes into the match, thrilling its home crowd by quickly cutting into Monterrey’s 5-0 advantage from the first leg. The Rayados had trouble getting into the match, turning the ball over in their defensive end and failing to string together passes on offense.
Monterrey’s shifty midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro was inconsistent through the first quarter hour, over-dribbling on occasion while failing to connect with forwards Rogelio Funes Mori and Avilés Hurtado. Just as suddenly, Pizarro found his mojo, creating something out of nothing and the Rayados equalized at the 20-minute mark.
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Pizarro got the ball at the midfield stripe near the left sideline, turned upfield then was forced back, surrounded by three Kansas City players. Somehow, Pizarro filtered a lead pass through a forest of legs and Funes Mori was free down the left channel racing into the box. The Argentine striker eluded a chasing defender and fired a low right-footed blast into the net to make the score 1-1 (6-1 on aggregate). The away goal meant Sporting KC would have to win by 6 goals to advance.
KC’s Gerso Fernandes scored his second goal of the match 9 minutes later, chasing down a rebound in the box and firing inside the far post to put the Wizards up 2-1 (down 6-2 on aggregate).
Monterrey pulled even again in minute 39 when Jesús Gallardo got free wide left and dribbled deep into the box before cutting back to Pizarro who was perched on the doorstep. Pizarro poked the cross past KC goalie Tim Melia and the score was 2-2.
Just before halftime, the hosts had a chance to take a lead into the break when ref Joel Aguilar called a penalty on Monterrey defender Johan Vázquez who had a difficult first half (Vázquez was responsible for the opening goal and almost allowed another when he broke an offside trap by dropping back). Fortunately for the 20-year-old defender, goalie Marcelo Barovero was up to the task and he stopped the ensuing penalty kick by Ilie Sánchez.
Kansas City enjoyed the statistical advantage at the break (64% possession, 11 shots taken compared to only 4 by Monterrey), but still needed to score 5 goals in the final 45 minutes to avoid elimination.
The Wizards came out more physical to open the second half and it worked to a degree as KC created a few scoring chances. But the opportunities were left wanting as the hosts sprayed their shots (for the game, Sporting KC took 17 shots, but only 4 were on net). Each team made two changes just before the hour mark.
Then Pizarro made a mazey run toward the KC goal, only to be taken down just outside the half moon. Miguel Layún stepped up to take the free kick and buried it in the back of the net (photo at top). That not only clinched the series, it also put Monterrey in a position to host the second leg of the final against crosstown rivals Tigres.
The Rayados made sure of their home field advantage in the final by scoring twice more, pushing the final score on the night to 5-2 (10-2 aggregate score).
The Tigres will host the first leg in two weeks’ time and the second leg will be a week later.
Notes: The Rayados earned the right to host the final game at home by posting a 4-1-1 record in the tournament thus far, while the Tigres have a 4-0-2 record. … Monterrey is going for its fourth Concacaf Champions League title after winning three in a row from 2011 through 2013. … The Tigres have never won an international tournament.