Liga MX crowned its 2019 Apertura champions on Sunday night, with CF Monterrey outlasting Club America in a gripping penalty-kick shootout after the two giants finished the two-legged final deadlocked at 3-3 on aggregate goals.
Roared on by a big home crowd at the famous Estadio Azteca, America raced out to a 2-0 lead in the first half on Sunday, looking like a good bet to overcome Monterrey’s narrow 2-1 home win in the first leg.
But Rayados striker Rogelio Funes Mori, winner of the 2008 edition of the Sueño MLS talent search, donned the hero’s cape again, firing home from close range in the 75th minute to cut the deficit to 2-1 and draw Monterrey level on aggregate. He’d already netted an incredible bicycle-kick winner in injury time to deliver the first-leg victory at Estadio BBVA.
No breakthrough materialized in the 30-minute extra time, so the two sides moved on to penalties. Despite former LA Galaxy star Giovani dos Santos successfully converting his spot kick, America were punished for two failed PKs as Leonel Vangioni stroked home the winner to send Monterrey’s traveling fans into delirium.
It marks the second major trophy of the year for Rayados, who won the 2019 Concacaf Champions League under newly-appointed Inter Miami coach Diego Alonso and went on to represent the region with pride at the FIFA Club World Cup earlier this month, finishing in third place after a tight 2-1 loss to eventual champions Liverpool in the semifinals. Amazingly, this is the powerhouse club’s first Liga MX title in nine years.
Sunday’s triumph was a particularly powerful moment for Rayados manager Antonio Mohamed, who was overcome with emotion after the shootout. He lost his young son Farid, a Monterrey fan due to his father’s playing stint there in the late 1990s, to a serious car accident as they attended the 2006 World Cup in Germany and had promised Farid that he’d someday return to the club and win a title.
Monterrey did not qualify for the 2020 edition of Champions League but will face off against the winner of the Clausura to see who gets to face the Seattle Sounders in next year's Campeones Cup. America will face Comunicaciones in the Round of 16 before a likely matchup against Atlanta United in the quarterfinals. Atlanta toppled America in last year's Campeones Cup.