Dramatic second-half comeback overturns two-goal deficit against Santos
By Michael Lewis
MONTERRY, Mexico -- Faced with a two-goal deficit entering the final 30 minutes, Monterrey pulled off a comeback for the ages to win the CONCACAF Champions League crown for a record third consecutive time on Wednesday night.
Aldo De Nigris' second goal of the match snapped a 2-2 deadlock in the 87th minute and Humberto Suazo added an insurance goal in stoppage time to lift Monterrey to a 4-2 victory over Mexican rival Santos Laguna at Estadio Tecnológico.
Monterrey won the aggregate goals series, 4-2, after the teams played to a scoreless draw at Santos last week.
Los Rayados also booked their third consecutive berth to the FIFA Club World Cup, which will next be held in Morocco from Dec. 11-21, 2013.
Monterrey equaled Cruz Azul's feat of winning three consecutive confederation club titles (1969-71), when the competition was known as the CONCACAF Champions Cup.
Santos lost to Monterrey in the final for the second consecutive year.
Carlos Darwin Quintero and Felipe Baloy had given Santos a 2-0 advantage, but Monterrey refused to give up.
De Nigris sliced the deficit in half on the hour as the Mexican international slotted home a right-wing cross from Jesus Corona. The 29-year-old forward needed only one touch to beat goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez from eight yards.
Second-half substitute Neri Cardozo equalized in the 84th minute, firing home a shot from the top of the box for his third goal of the competition.
With time running out, De Nigris performed some more heroics, heading home a long free kick off the foot of Suazo from close-range in the 87th minute to give the host a 3-2 lead.
But Monterrey wasn't finished. Suazo got onto the scoresheet, converting a left-wing feed from Jesus Zavala from 12 yards off a counterattack two minutes into stoppage time to punctuate the amazing comeback. It was Suazo's fifth goal in his three final series appearances, a confederation record. He also has scored a team-best 16 goals in the competition, which places him third on the all-time list.
Los Rayados had the better opportunities in the opening half, but Santos grabbed a 1-0 lead on Quintero's goal in the 38th minute. The Monterrey defense cleared a close-range attempt, but the ball was fed into the box to Quintero, who beat goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco. Quintero and Isidro Metapan's Nicolas Munoz finished as the competition's Golden Boot winners with six goals each.
The first half was more like a highlight reel for Suazo, who had three decent attempts at goal from various parts of the field.
In the 12th minute, the Chilean international headed a shot wide right of the net.
Five minutes later, his long free kick sailed just over the crossbar.
And in the 19th minute, Suazo fired a 12-yard shot straight into the arms of goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez.
Santos thought it had grabbed the lead in the 32nd minute on Rafael Figueroa's header, but he was ruled to be offside.
Baloy, who captains the Panama National Team, boosted the visitors into a two-goal advantage in the 50th minute on a header from four yards that landed in the lower left corner. It was Baloy's first goal of the CCL competition.
With the win, Monterrey equalized Cruz Azul and Santos for the most victories in CCL with 25 wins apiece, although Los Rayados have played 10 less matches than Santos and six less than Cruz Azul. Monterrey's all-time record in the competition is 25 wins, six draw and three losses. The Mexican side has outscored its foes, 70-22. It also improved its CCL home record to 14 wins, two ties and one loss.