Monterrey played Al-Hilal to a 2-2 tie in regulation before winning the third-place match in a shoot-out.
Back-up goalie Luis Cárdenas played the hero and short-handed Monterrey earned third place in the FIFA Club World Cup over Saudi club Al-Hilal via a penalty kick shoot-out. It marks the second time the Rayados won the bronze medal at this tournament.
Cárdenas – starting because No. 1 keeper Marcelo Barovero was sent home early to rest up for the Liga MX Final against América – stopped two of the penalty shots then took the Rayados’ fifth and deciding shot.
“Mochis” calmly converted the game-winner, sending the goalie to the right while poking a low shot just inside the left post. He raised his hands in jubilation and ran toward midfield to celebrate with his teammates and Monterrey will come home with the third-place medal.
Leading up to the match against Al-Hilal, coach Antonio Mohamed sent home nine players – eight starters – ahead of next week’s Finals. His team had traveled halfway around the world, to Qatar, to play in the FIFA Club World Cup while the Liga MX Final was postponed. Monterrey had already played two games in Doha (defeating Qatari club Al-Sadd in the quarterfinals before suffering a heartbreaking loss to powerful Liverpool on Wednesday) and “El Turco” decided getting his key players home was a bigger priority than Saturday’s third-place match. The Rayados play the first leg of the Liga MX Final at home on Dec. 26. The second leg is set for Dec. 29 at Estadio Azteca.
In the game against Al-Hilal, Monterrey had only three starters available – Stefan Medina on defense, Rodolfo Pizarro in midfield and striker Rogelio Funes Mori – but not a single one started.
The Saudi club were led by former Italy international Sebastian Giovinco and they settled into the match, controlling possession against the makeshift Rayados line-up. In minute 35, midfielder Carlos Eduardo put Al-Hilal in front, knocking home a header off a pass from Yaseer Al-Shahrani.
Monterrey regrouped at halftime and came out with some urgency and with more productive possessions. Arturo González nearly scored three minutes in, but his header from point-blank range was stopped by goalie Abdullah Al-Mayouf.
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In minute 55, González scored his first official goal for Monterrey since recently returning from a devastating knee injury. Jonathan Urretaviscaya sent in a perfect cross and “Poncho” nodded home from the middle of the box to tie the score.
Five minutes later, Maxi Meza slotted home nicely from in close after taking a neat pass from Angel Zaldívar and eluding a defender. The Rayados led 2-1 with a half hour to play. However, they were unable to protect the lead.
Former Lyon striker Bafetimbi Gomis came on as a substitute for Al-Hilal just before Monterrey took the lead and the former France international equalized with a header in minute 66. Rayados goalie Cárdenas will have felt that he should have stopped the shot, getting his left palm on the ball only to see it squirt behind him and across the goal line.
Rayados chase the win late in match
Coach Mohamed soon inserted his three starters (Funes Mori in minute 68, Pizarro in minute 72 and Medina in minute 85) in hopes of turning the tide. The teams traded chances for the remainder of the match, but nobody could find the winner.
Monterrey outshot Al-Hilal on the night, firing off 16 shots to 13 for the Saudi club. The Rayados also got 8 of their shots on net (Al-Mayouf made 6 saves) while Al-Hilal managed just 5 shots on goal.
The game went immediately to penalty kicks after 90 minutes, setting the stage for Cárdenas to put on his cape. The first four players converted their kicks (Jonathan González and Medina for the Rayados) to make it 2-2 and then the 26-year-old goalie took center stage.
Al-Hilal captain Carlos Eduardo stepped up but sent a poor shot just left of Cárdenas around chest high and the keeper easily blocked it. Funes Mori then blasted home to put Monterrey up 3-2 in the shoot-out.
Jang Hyun-Soo tied it for Al-Hilal (Cárdenas got his fingers on the shot but it was to powerful to stop) and next up was Monterrey’ Johan Vázquez. But the young defender sprayed his effort wide of goal and it remained 3-3 with one turn remaining for each team.
Mohammed Kano sent a firm right-footer to Cárdenas’ left and the keeper timed his lunge perfectly, knocking the ball down with his left hand to keep it out of the net. “Mochis” then walked calmly to the spot, stepping back 4 meters and waiting for the ref to blow his whistle.
The Rayados goalie approached the ball and sent a right-footer low and to his left as Al-Mayouf dove the other way. The ball rippled the side netting and the Rayados became the fourth Liga MX team to earn a medal at the Club World Cup, and the first one to do it twice. Monterrey also won third place in the 2012 Club World Cup, while Necaxa (2000) and Pachuca (2016) also emerged victorious from a third-place match.