Monterrey advances past the host team to earn a chance to upset the UEFA Champions League holders.
The Rayados of Monterrey survived a tougher-than-expected challenge from Qatari club Al-Sadd to advance to a semifinal match vs. Liverpool at the FIFA Club World Cup.
The Rayados outscored Al-Sadd – coached by Barcelona legend Xavi – 3-2 with Lionel Vangioni’s 23rd-minute wonder goal tilting the match in Monterrey’s direction. Just before halftime, Rogelio Funes Mori swooped in on a bad back pass then beat goalie Saad al-Sheeb 1-on-1 to send the Rayados into halftime with a 2-0 lead.
The local team – the match was played at Doha’s Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium, where Al-Sadd plays its home games – had outplayed Monterrey for long stretches of the first half, enjoying 60% possession and putting on a nifty close-quarters passing display.
The game opened fast and furious. Monterrey’s Jesús Gallardo clanged the crossbar just 90 seconds in, and 60 seconds later Al-Sadd’s Akeem Afif got behind the defense but was denied by scrambling keeper Marcelo Barovero.
Xavi’s team was having success beating Monterrey’s high line, finding time and space in the Rayados’ defensive third, too.
Vangioni’s goal came completely against the run of play. After a restart following a foul, Carlos Rodríguez squared a pass across to the Argentine left back who was about 35 meters out from goal in the left channel. Vangioni sidestepped a defender then let fly with his trusty left boot, sending a screamer in off the right post, the ball rippling the side netting inside the opposite post before hitting the ground.
Al-Sadd was momentarily on its back foot, but recovered soon enough, testing Monterrey’s back line. Just before the halftime whistle, long-time Atlético Madrid captain Gabi committed a huge error. He turned to deliver a long pass back to his goalie, mishit it and Rayados striker Funes Mori was first to react. He swept in alone and slotted home easily.
More from Viva Liga MX
- Guillermo Ochoa is out 4-6 weeks
- The Clásico Regiomontano is Heating Up
- Pumas: In Search of Regaining a Top Spot
- Why the United States Is Set to Overtake Mexico on the World Stage
- Erick Gutierrez is out once again
The Concacaf Champions League winners opened the second half with momentum. Captain Dorlan Pabón had two great scoring chances early on and the Rayados were buzzing around the box. But then, Al-Sadd found their footing. A clever tic-tac-toe passing maneuver through midfield caught defender Nico Sánchez leaning the wrong way, but Afif fired high.
Two minutes later, Gallardo was stripped of possession near midfield and Al-Sadd was on the counter quickly. Hassan Al Haydos saw Afif cutting into the box and lofted a long centering pass. Afif beat Nico to the ball and headed inside the far post. Suddenly it was 2-1 with 25 minutes to play.
Rayados start to reel
Momentum had shifted and Al-Sadd was finding space, catching Monterrey out on the wings, but unable to capitalize. As Al-Sadd chased the equalizer, Vangioni picked Afif’s pocket near midfield, forwarded it to Funes Mori who sent it wide to Gallardo whose low cross was poked just wide by a sliding Rodolfo Pizarro.
In minute 77, Gallardo made up for his earlier turnover. The Team Mexico midfielder swiped a pass and raced toward the box, he dribbled past a defender then dropped it off softly to the onrushing Charlie Rodríguez who skimmed a rocket off the underside of the crossbar to give the Rayados a 3-1 lead.
Monterrey was unable to see out the game without complications, however. A switch to a 5-man back line seemed to make the team more passive, dropping back deep into their own zone and allowing Al-Sadd to probe the area. In minute 89, Hassan Abdelkarim had time to survey the defense from just outside the box before ripping a left-footer that cross the face of Barovero before slamming into the far side netting.
The Rayados were able to run out the clock and survive. Their reward is a semifinal date against Liverpool on Wednesday. The other semifinal match pits Copa Libertadores winners Flamengo (Brazil) against Saudi club Al-Hilal, the Asian Football Confederation champs.
This is Monterrey’s fourth appearance in the FIFA Club World Cup, now tied with Pachuca for most among Liga MX clubs. The best finish for the Rayados in their previous three appearances was a third-place trophy in 2012.
This year is the second time that the Liga MX Finals have been postponed while one of the finalists takes part in the Club World Cup. Three years ago América was in the Liga MX championship series and the Club World Cup.