Monterrey will take a one-goal advantage into the second leg of the Concacaf Champions League Final.
Nico Sánchez scored off a corner kick just before halftime and Monterrey keeper Marcelo Barovero made the 1-0 lead stand up with four huge second-half saves as the visiting Rayados defeated the Tigres in the first leg of the Concacaf Champions League final.
The Tigres enjoyed the lion’s share of possession (71% for the game), but paid for their lack of ambition in the first 45 minutes. Despite holding the ball for two-thirds of the opening half, the hosts failed to get a shot on goal. The Tigres were more deliberate with possession, passing the ball around the back, probing patiently but rarely finding touches in their offensive third.
As a result, Monterrey enjoyed the upper hand most of the first half, attacking vertically and creating more scoring chances. The Tigres also committed a few unforced turnovers that gave the Rayados quick opportunities.
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Both teams demonstrated frustration with the poor officiating by ref John Pitti of Panama who allowed some rough tackles early on. Later, the ref even showed yellow cards on two occasions (first to Tigres defender Hugo Ayala, then to Monterrey winger Avilés Hurtado) when a foul had not even been committed. Although, Pitti did not improve as the game wore on, his decisions did not directly impact the result.
Monterrey captain Dorlan Pabón began finding space on the right wing during the first 20 minutes and teammate Rodolfo Pizarro sent him behind the defense on a couple occasions, but Tigres goalie Nahuel Guzmán was in position to cover up.
In minute 23, Rogelio Funes Mori dribbled to his left at the top of the half moon and let fly with a low shot that Guzmán parried and Pabón sent the rebound wide. Fifteen minutes later, Pabón was denied by Guzmán who made four saves in the first half. Seconds later, Rayados defender Nico Sánchez jumped into attack and was sent through down the right channel. He stepped around counterpart Hugo Ayala and blasted a low shot that ricocheted off the right post.
In minute 43, the Rayados broke the stalemate when Sánchez broke free from Fernando Meza on a corner kick and headed perfectly into the right corner of the net, sending Monterrey into the locker with a 1-0 lead.
In the second half, the Tigres pressed forward more often, aided by the Rayados decision to sit back a bit further on defense. Jesús Dueñas began venturing upfield from his left back position and winger Luis Quiñones made several fine dribbling attacks though he was unable to complete any plays as the Monterrey back line effectively cut off passing lanes.
At the hour mark, Tigres coach Tuca Ferretti inserted striker André-Pierre Gignac and winger Juergen Damm. Dueñas and Quiñones continued to press forward while Damm was woefully ineffective though the speedster almost set up the equalizer.
After a corner kick, the Tigres kept the ball in their attacking third and Damm received a pass just left of the top left corner of the box. He scanned the field and lifted a perfect cross onto the path of Guido Pizarro but the midfielder sprayed his header way wide.
Gignac was covered up in the middle of the box most of the half hour he was on the pitch, but twice he wiggled free and got off a quick shot, the second of which forced a splendid diving save from Barovero in the final minutes.
The two rivals face off in the Grand Finale on Wednesday, May 1, at Monterrey’s Estadio BBVA Bancomer. The away goal rule is not in effect in the final, so if the Tigres win the return match on the road by one goal, the game will go into overtime.