CHRISTOPHER MCCOLLUM - Monday, May 14, 2012
Herculez Gomez came on in the 51st minute as Santos pulled off a shocking last minute result to advance to the Primera Division Playoff Finals.
The second leg of the Semifinal matchup between giants Santos and Tigres was all that it was billed up to be and more, with the winner advancing to the finals to meet Monterrey, and a tie favoring Santos because of their better record during the season.
After the first leg of the semifinal resulted in a 1-1 tie, expectations were high that the return was going to be full of drama, but the fireworks in England earlier in the day took a bit of steam out of the anticipation for the game. Surely nothing could match the last second victory snatched from the jaws of defeat that Manchester City claimed? Time would tell.
Tigres jumped on the board first early in the game with only five minutes gone from the clock, when Hector Mancilla floated into the box near the far post, alluding his defender to be open for Carlos Salcido's cross from the right side of the field. The ball came in, perfectly placed, and was headed past goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez to stun the home crowd.
Mancilla would do it again in the 26th minute, opening himself up on the left side of the attack and running onto Manuel Garcia's pass into space that saw him move alone into the box. Santos defender Felip Baloy made a strong effort to get back and cut off Mancilla's shooting angle, but the Chilean sharpshooter cleverly sidestepped the sliding Baloy, and shot low and hard to the far post, beating Sanchez.
Gomez would enter the game for Cristian Suarez in the 51st minute, but would be unable to force a goal. All hope appeared lost and a disappointing exit from the Playoffs was imminent. However, Oribe Peralta would strike in the 86th minute from a Carlos Quintero cross. Quintero controlled the ball on the left flank, pulling back to his right foot about 25 yards from the touchline outside of the corner of the box. His cross swung in and found Peralta streaking to goal in the middle of the box, while Gomez drew the center defender to the side. Peralta headed the ball home to provide a glimmer of hope for the final four minutes plus stoppage time of the match.
One minute from regulation Peralta would send the Nuevo Estadio Corona into ecstasy as he ran into the left side of the box and onto a blooping Quintero pass. Peralta hammered the ball to the far post to equalize and secure advancement to the championship series.
Santos will face Monterrey in a rematch of the CONCACAF Champions League final which saw Santos lose to the reigning champions on a 3-2 goal aggregate. The first leg will be Thursday, May 17 with the return leg on the following Sunday.