CCL: Late goal crushes title dreams for Gomez, Santos
For a brief moment, it looked like Herculez Gomez and Santos Laguna had turned the tide and were on their way to their first-ever CONCACAF Champions League title. But Monterrey scored a late dagger in Wednesday night's final second leg, and are now back-to-back CONCACAF champions.
Neri Cardozo's 82nd-minute strike negated Daniel Ludueña's and Oribe Peralta's aggregate equalizers, and gave los Rayados the vital away goal they needed to win 3-2 on aggregate once the whistle blew in Torreón.
Gomez started the game on the bench, with Santos coach Benjamín Galindo opting to field Peralta, Carlos Darwin Quintero and Cristian Suárez in the attack as he looked to overturn a 2-0 first-leg deficit.
There was an early moment of controversy as Monterrey goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco was caught outside his box and blocked Quintero's shot with his hand, though referee Roberto García only deemed it a yellow-card offense.
Santos continued to pressure early, and had numerous chances to take the lead. Quintero had a pair of chances saved, while both Peralta and Suárez failed to find the target from close range.
The home side's pressure finally paid off on the stroke of halftime as Ludueña received the ball at the edged of the area and hammered the ball home to halve the aggregate deficit.
Los Guerreros carried their momentum into the second half as Monterrey failed to clear their lines after a storming run from Quintero in the 50th minute. The ball fell to Peralta, who hammered home a sidefooted shot to even things up on aggregate.
Gomez finally made his appearance in the 56th minute, replacing Ludueña, though it was Monterrey who had the better of the ensuing minutes.
Indeed, it was the visitors who eventually broke through, though it took until eight minutes from time. Cardozo broke through the Santos defense and rifled a shot that took a deflection and looped over Oswaldo Sánchez, effectively finishing off Santos' hopes in front of their home crowd.
With their repeat CONCACAF crown, Monterrey book a return trip to Japan in December, where they'll again compete in the FIFA Club World Cup.