Well, we didn't see the fireworks between Monterrey and Santos Laguna in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League Final Wednesday, but Humberto Suazo's second half brace was the difference as the hosts will take a 2-0 win into the second leg. After a physical first half that the teams played to a stalemate, the best player on the field, Suazo, was able to take over and get the result for his team.
The scoring opened in the 60th minute when Monterrey took the ball following a chance from Santos. After a cross headed by Herculez Gomez in front of goal went just over the top corner of the goalpost, Monterrey flipped the play in a hurry and Aldo de Nigris sent an angled pass from the right flank back to Suazo in the middle of the box, who ran onto it easily and beat Santos keeper Oswaldo Sanchez. Many will question whether Suazo should have been in the game at that point, as he was on an early yellow card and collided with Sanchez studs up in the box on a breakaway three minutes before the goal. Although the foul was dangerous and could very well have merited a second yellow card, the fact is that his yellow card in the first half was on a rather-soft call, and the non-call probably evened out the earlier card.
Following the opening goal, the play was mostly limited to the middle third of the field, and Santos could not get any outstanding chances on goal to test Monterrey goalkeeper Jonathan Sanchez on the night, and that hurt them in the end. But Suazo was not done on the night, and his second goal, in the 86th minute, was an absolutely beautiful demonstration of individual skill. He took on four Santos defenders as he slalomed from outside the box to well inside the area, then turned and shot it past Sanchez to cap off a fantastic sequence. It could very well turn out to be the goal of the tournament.
With a two-goal lead and a clean sheet at home, Monterrey are obviously in control heading into the ultimate leg of the final in Torreon. Although they didn't impress until the hour mark, they were able to get the result and are in a terrific position to successfully defend their CCL title. But don't count out Santos. In the last two knockout rounds of this tournament, Santos have failed to really assert themselves in each round until the second half of the second leg, when they were then able to turn on the jets and easily advance. Although Monterrey are by far the toughest team they have met in the tournament, Santos have shown they are capable of overturning a two goal deficit. With the added intensity, next week's leg should be a fantastic finale to the tournament.