DAVID SMITH - Friday, May 13, 2016
The Liga MX Liguilla kicked off midweek, with Edgar Castillo and Monterrey putting themselves in safe position to reach the semifinal after a big first-leg win over city rivals Tigres.
Tigres UANL 1 - 3 CF Monterrey
Edgar Castillo made the most of his second-half cameo for Monterrey on Wednesday night, assisting on the team's third goal as a 3-1 away win over Tigres put the team on strong position for a semifinal berth.
Monterrey jumped ahead in the 16th minute when Edwin Cardona spotted Carlos Sánchez in the middle, setting the Uruguayan striker up with a low cross that he precisely blasted to the lower left corner.
The hosts tied things up three minutes later after a long build-up ended with Rafael Sobis beating Monterrey keeper Jonathan Orozco from 20 yards out. However, the visitors took the lead for good in the 38th minute when Dorlan Pabon received the ball at midfield from Sánchez, and weaved his way into position before firing a low show that left Tigres keeper Nahuel Guzmán helpless.
Tigres were by far the more aggressive of the two teams, taking a total of 20 shots compared to a total of six by their opponents, however their wastefulness in front of goal - and a superb performance from Monterrey keeper Jonathan Orozco - kept them from making any more breakthroughs.
The visitors then put the exclamation point on their victory with six minutes left in the game, with a scrappy goal that took the final wind out of the hosts.
Castillo fought his way to the endline at the left edge of the six-yard box and managed to awkwardly center the ball. Rogelio Funes Mori took control, rounded the keeper who had come off his line, and put his shot on-target into the empty net for their third goal.
The scoreline should be enough to all but guarantee Monterrey's place in the Clausura semifinals barring a monumental collapse in Saturday's return leg at home. They beat Tigres by a single goal in their one Clausura meeting, and should have no problems to defend their significant advantage on home turf.
Santos Laguna 1 - 1 CF Pachuca
Omar Gonzalez returned to Pachuca's starting lineup on Thursday evening, as Pachuca's 1-1 away draw at Santos gave them a narrow edge to push through their quarterfinal matchup.
The American defender also picked up a yellow card in the closing moments of the game as Santos pushed for a late winner.
The visitors were in control for much of the first half, and finally capitalized three minutes before the halftime break. Jonathan Urreta sharply fired in in a free kick from just outside the upper left corner of the penalty area, which Franco Jara redirected into goal with a glancing header.
Santos pulled even in the 66th minute in a strikingly similar fashion. Néstor Calderón cued up a free kick from 30 yards straight out, and Diego González stooped low at the edge of the six-yard box to fool Pachuca keeper Oscar Pérez with his header.
The hosts had the momentum and pushed for the win in the closing minutes, with González nearly beating Pérez again in the closing minutes, but Pachuca held on for the draw.
The pressure will be on Santos to score in Sunday's return leg, as the away goal gives Pachuca a slight edge. Given Pachuca's strong defensive record in the Clausura, with a league-best 16 goals allowed in 17 games, they should be seen as favorites to face the winner of the standoff between Léon and Monarcas.
Ventura Alvarado was an unused substitute for América in their first-leg scoreless draw at Chivas on Thursday evening.