Monterrey reaches Final, departs for Qatar first

Monterrey players celebrate after winning their return match against Necaxa and advancing to the Liga MX Final. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)
Monterrey players celebrate after winning their return match against Necaxa and advancing to the Liga MX Final. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images) /

The Rayados survived 90 minutes of frenzy and mayhem to advance to their first Liga MX Final since December 2017.

Monterrey became the first No. 8 seed to reach the Liga MX Final since Santos Laguna won the Clausura 2015 title as the eighth seed. The Rayados survived a frantic game-long effort from host Necaxa and Rogelio Funes Mori scored deep into added time to clinch the victory by a 3-1 aggregate score.

The Rayados leave for Doha, Qatar, on Sunday to take part in the FIFA Club World Cup next week so the Liga MX Final will be postponed until their return. Their Finals opponent will be determined at Estadio Azteca Sunday night when No. 7 seed Morelia visits No. 6 América. The Monarcas arrive with a 2-0 advantage from Thursday’s first leg match.

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Necaxa was thoroughly outplayed on Wednesday night in Monterrey, but lost only 2-1. As such, a 1-0 result would have earned the Rayos their first Finals appearance since 2002. A 2-1 win for the Electricistas would also have allowed Necaxa to advance.

The Rayos came out with energy and an urgency that was not necessary so early in the match. The result was a lot of rushed passes and miscommunication that erased opportunities. Monterrey maintained defensive shape and absorbed the pressure well. Necaxa seemed determined to rain crosses and centering passes into the box, but too often failed to find a target.

The pace was intense throughout but Necaxa’s impatience worked against them and occasionally led to dangerous counter-attacks by Monterrey.

After several substitutions, Necaxa changed their approach but it was even less effective as players lapsed into solo efforts, dribbled into double teams and overhit lead passes.

Late escape for Monterrey

The game started getting chippy as the Rayos got more and more frustrated, then they nearly scored off a corner kick in minute 90. Rodrigo Noya got his head on the Maxi Salas cross only to watch the ball ping off the post and there was no Rayo nearby to claim the rebound.

Just before the final whistle, Necaxa committed their umpteenth turnover and Rodolfo Pizarro got free along the touchline and zipped a low cross to back post where sub Funes Mori nodded home unmolested.

Monterrey to Final
Antonio Mohamed salvaged Monterrey’s season after taking over for Diego Alonso on Oct. 9. (Photo by Jaime Lopez/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

The win serves as vindication for Rayados coach Antonio Mohamed who took over after Matchday 12 and salvaged Monterrey’s season. “El Turco” will take the Rayados to the Finals for a third time, having reached the championship series twice before (Clausura 2016 and Apertura 2017) during his previous stint as coach of La Pandilla. Mohamed will be hoping that the third time is a charm when they take the field at Estadio BBVA Bancomer on Dec. 26 against either América or Morelia.

Monterrey eliminated top-seeded Santos Laguna in the quarterfinals before sweeping past the fifth-seeded Rayos.