MONTERREY.- Monterrey defeated top-seeded Cruz Azul 1-0 in a high-quality first-leg contest in the semi-finals of the Mexican soccer league’s Apertura 2018 playoffs.
The home side dominated early on at BBVA Bancomer Stadium, getting a goal shortly after the opening whistle and continuing to dictate play over the first quarter-hour of the match.
Monterrey’s Rodolfo Pizarro accounted for the lone score of Wednesday night’s contest when he headed home a pass by Dorlan Pabon in the fourth minute.
Stefan Medina then created danger with a pass into Cruz Azul’s area in the ninth minute before Pabon sent a free kick over the crossbar in the 13th minute.
After weathering that storm, the Mexico City club nearly got the equalizer in the 19th minute when Elias Hernandez beat Medina to a pass by Pablo Aguilar before sending his shot wide.
Goalkeeper Marcelo Barovero then was a key figure for fifth-seeded Monterrey in the second half, stopping one shot by Martin Cauteruccio and later thwarting Roberto Alvarado’s run into the area in the 67th minute.
Late in the game, the Rayados missed two chances to put Cruz Azul in a deeper hole when a shot by Rogelio Funes Mori clanked off the woodwork in the 83rd minute and Pabon fired wide during second-half stoppage time.
Even so, Monterrey will be pleased at not having allowed an away goal prior to Saturday night’s second leg at Cruz Azul’s home ground – Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.
The winner will square off in the final of the Apertura 2018 – the first of two championships in the 2018-2019 Liga MX season – against either second-seeded Club America or third-seeded Pumas UNAM.
Those Mexico City teams will play their first leg on Thursday night at Pumas’ Estadio Olímpico Universitario and their second leg on Sunday evening at Estadio Azteca, America’s home ground.