Santos Laguna pulled off a stunning last-minute comeback in Sunday night’s playoff semifinal to set up a showdown with Monterrey, who beat Club America 2-0 the previous evening.
Santos came from two goals down against Tigres UANL to equalize through a late Oribe Peralta double. Having finished first in the league stage of the Clausura 2012, a tie was enough to see the Torreon side through to the final.
Tigres had stunned the crowd at the Estadio Corona, with Hector Mancilla’s two first-half goals making it 3-1 on aggregate. It was a clinical counter-attacking display from the Apertura 2011 champions, with both goals coming from quick breaks into their opponents’ half.
It seemed as though Tigres’ mean defense was going to keep out Santos’ deadly attack, but Oribe Peralta pulled one back for the hosts with an 87th minute header.
Two minutes later Peralta blasted a left-footed strike past Enrique Palos, completing the unlikely comeback and sending the home fans into ecstasy.
“Plenty of room on the wagon for those who believe. If you’re not one of them, get off now. For those who never stopped caring, thank you,” tweeted Santos striker Herculez Gomez after the game.
Santos will now face Monterrey in a rematch of last month’s CONCACAF Champions League Final. Los Rayados beat America 2-0 amidst a torrential downpour at the Estadio Tecnologico on Saturday to ensure an all-northern final.
There was all to play for following Wednesday’s goalless draw at the Estadio Azteca, but America struggled to adapt to the wet conditions, leaving Monterrey to claim a deserved victory.
“We adapted to the circumstances quickly,” said Monterrey coach Victor Manuel Vucetich. “I think that worked in our favor. We got the opportune goal in the first half. That allowed us to slow the game down; to work our game as we have been doing all season.”
With the rain lashing down, Argentine Jose Maria Basanta headed in from an eighth-minute corner to give the hosts the lead.
Aldo DeNigris doubled Monterrey’s advantage in the 52nd minute, meeting Cesar Delgado’s cross at the far post and heading the ball into the ground for it to bounce past goalkeeper Moises Muñoz.
The first-leg of the final will be played in Monterrey on May 17, with Santos hosting the second game in Torreon on May 20.
Santos will be looking for revenge, having lost last month’s CCL final to Monterrey 5-2 on aggregate. But to finally claim some silverware, the perennial “nearly men” will have to end a demoralizing run that has seen them lose four finals in the past two years.
In other news, AC Leon won promotion to the Primera Division on Friday with a 5-0 win over Correcaminos UAT. Leon triumphed 6-2 on aggregate and will now return to top-flight football for the first time since 2002, replacing relegated side Estudiantes Tecos.
By Duncan Tucker (@DuncanTucker)
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