Monterrey's quest for a third straight CONCACAF Champions League title got off to a solid, if not rocky start in the first leg of the final at Santos Laguna on Wednesday night. The Rayados finished the match with 10 men, but they still managed to hold on for a 0-0 draw that has them a home win in the second leg away from an unprecedented third consecutive championship.
Nobody who watched the opening minutes of the match would have ever guessed that it would have finished scoreless. Right from the kick off both teams flew up and down the pitch in a wild start that saw Humberto Suazo come so close to giving Monterrey an early lead, but Oswaldo Sanchez made a fine save to keep Santos level.
But after the entertaining start, the match slowed and both teams got sloppy. They gave the ball away before they could get a chance and the most notable plays were fouls that forced the referee whether to show a card in what became a chippy match.
Just like the first half, Suazo came very close to putting Monterrey ahead in the opening minutes of the second half when he blistered a shot off the post.
Monterrey's dreams of pulling off a win died in the 68th minute, though, when they were reduced to 10 men. Cesar Delgado's clumsy challenge earned him a red card and the Rayados had no choice but to pack men behind the ball with hopes of a earning draw.
Santos grabbed a better hold of the match after Delgado's dismissal, but they struggled to create clear cut chances. That was the case all match for Santos, though. Oddly, they opted to play with just two strikers from the start instead of the uber-dangerous three-man frontline of Oribe Peralta, Carlos Darwin Quintero and Herculez Gomez and they struggled to challenge the Monterrey defense all match as a result.
Making matters worse, Peralta was injured in the second half and was carted off with what appeared to be a nasty knee injury. Now they are facing the possibility of playing without their best striker for the foreseeable future, which could include the second leg.
As good as a road draw looks for Monterrey, especially considering they finished down a man, the lack of an away goal leaves them vulnerable in the second leg to a Santos team hoping to avenge last year's final loss to the Rayados. Still, Monterrey need just a home win to capture their third consecutive CONCACAF Champions League title. Advantage, Rayados.