Monterrey is 1 point away from clinching a playoff spot – with 6 games remaining – after an impressive 2-1 road win over defending Liga MX champs Pachuca on Sunday night.
Jesús Gallardo and Jordi Cortizo were the goal-scorers as the Rayados overcame an early goal by Marino Hinestroza, with goalie Esteban Andrada contributing four big saves.
League-leading Monterrey (28 points) avoided the trap of looking ahead to next weekend’s “Clásico Regiomontano” and took care of business, moving to 9-1-1 on the season.
The Tuzos (19 points) dropped a spot to sixth place, still struggling to find the magic that carried them to their seventh Liga MX title last season
Monterrey shows poise, discipline
Pachuca started on its front foot, pressing forward and probing the Monterrey defense.
In minute 3, “Chofis” López found forward Roberto de la Rosa free on the right flank and the young forward turned and zipped a pass across the top of the box to Hinestroza. Despite slipping as the ball arrived, Hinestroza neatly trapped it and quickly fired a low shot inside Andrade’s left post.
The veteran Monterrey team did not panic and 14 minutes later the score was tied thanks to a nifty exchange between Gallardo and “Ponchito” López.
Left back Gallardo took a pass from “Ponchito” out wide, ran towards Kevin Álvarez who back-pedaled then whiffed at a steal attempt. The ball rolled to “Ponchito” at the top corner of the box and he smoothly touched it backward into the path of Gallardo who blasted a right-footer inside the far post.
Álvarez nearly made up for his error 5 minutes later but his right-footed rocked banged off the crossbar, and the teams went into the locker room all tied at the break.
In minute 53, “Ponchito” made an entry pass to Luis Romo at the top of the box and Romo tapped it into the path of the onrushing Cortizo who sent a laser into the Pachuca net and Monterrey led 2-1.
The Rayados spent the rest of the game harassing and harrying the Tuzos who had trouble breaking through the disciplined Monterrey defense, finally creating some chances in the dying minutes of the match, none of which they could convert.
Monterrey will now travel across town next Saturday to face their bitter rivals, Tigres, with a 7-point lead over Toluca, Tigres and Guadalajara (21 points each). The well-rested Rayados figure to have a bit of an advantage in the “Clásico Regio” as Tigres is in a bit of a slump and must travel to Florida to take on Orlando City SC in a Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 match on Wednesday.
Pachuca will host Honduras club Motagua on Thursday in a Concachampions Round of 16 match before paying a visit to 14th-place UNAM.