Columbus nearly secured a 2-1 win, only for Jose Alvarado to nod home a Dorlan Pabon cross in the 93rd minute. In the process, the Liga MX visitors grabbed a second crucial away goal and aggregate advantage going into next Wednesday's second leg at Estadio BBVA Bancomer.
Zelarayan thought he bagged a game-winner in the 87th minute, sweeping home a right-footed shot after right back Harrison Afful pulled the ball back toward the penalty spot. The Argentine No. 10 made no mistake with a defender draped over him, putting his team in the driver’s seat.
Columbus also overcame an early hole in the 65th minute, with left back Milton Valenzuela punching home at the far post. Zelarayan shimmied free along the endline, then crossed across goal for his compatriot to draw the hosts level at 1-1.
Monterrey grabbed their first all-important road goal in the 9th minute after forcing a midfield turnover, with Ake Loba picking out the far corner for a 1-0 advantage. Columbus center back Aboubacar Keita slipped in the attacking sequence, granting the Ivorian forward a clean shot past Eloy Room.
Bradley Wright-Phillips appeared to hand Columbus a 2-1 lead in the 71st minute, though Josh Williams was ruled offside in the buildup following a closer look from Video Review. Zelarayan swung in a looping free kick toward the back post, and the Crew SC center back snuck around before nodding across goal for BWP to tap home – a moot move in the end.
Williams nearly found redemption in the 76th minute, only for his powerful header from a Zelarayan corner kick to rattle the crossbar.
- THE BIG PICTURE: With Lucas Zelarayan picking up a yellow card and suspension (accumulation) ruling him out of Leg 2, Columbus faced extra urgency to get a home win. That was within grasp until second-half stoppage time when Jose Alvarado slipped free at the back post, giving Monterrey two away goals. Crew SC certainly aren’t out of the series, but their task is increasingly difficult when traveling to Mexico next week. At the bare minimum, they’ll need an away goal – or possibly more, depending on how the aggregate permutations unfold.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: The Jose Alvarado equalizer will linger in Columbus’ nightmares for weeks. The game’s entire mood and complexion changed as a result.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Early yellow card aside, Lucas Zelarayan stepped up in a major way. His assist and goal allowed Columbus to rally back, another example of their marquee player shining in a high-profile match.
- CLB: Saturday, May 1 at CF Montréal | 3 pm ET (MLS LIVE ON ESPN+)