Monterrey will be content with their 0-0 draw on the road at Santos Laguna’s Estadio Corona in the first leg of the 2013 CONCACAF Champions League final. Even though the visitors finished the game with ten men after Cesar Delgado was given his marching orders mid-way through the second half, they were the far better side on the day.

Now Monterrey take a slim advantage into next week’s second leg with the hopes of becoming only the second team in history to win the regional title three times in a row.

The visitors signaled their attacking intent early, showing they were not intimidated by the raucous crowd in the fourth all-Mexican Champions League final in the last five years. Santos Laguna’s burly Panamanian centre-back Felipe Baloy made a hash of his clearance in the second minute of the game and the ball came right back into the penalty area, falling to the feet of Rayados hit-man Humberto Suazo. Santos’ veteran goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez had to be alert to dive away the Chilean’s snapshot on the turn.

The home side were also in the mood to get forward early, even without USA international Herculez Gomez who began the match on the substitutes’ bench. Oribe Peralta slipped past Jose Maria Basanta and fired a shot from just inside the penalty that forced Jonathan Orozco to save clumsily with his feet.

The game was wide-open in the early stages of the opening period, but Monterrey – even without injured creator Neri Cardozo – began to stamp their dominance on the affair, controlling possession and dictating the patterns.

Osmar Mares burst into attack for Santos after 15 minutes, but Orozco was again equal to the task. Three minutes later, Delgado looked like putting Monterrey into the lead at the other end of the pitch. Suazo laid on a delightful ball for the Argentinian midfielder, but Sanchez sacrificed his body to pull off yet another important save. Monterrey continued to push, with Santos resorting to repetitive fouling in a half that produced five yellow cards.

Two minutes into the second period and Monterrey were back in the saddle again. Suazo rose at the penalty spot to snap his header at goal from a Delgado cross, the striker denied only by the base of the post in the best scoring chance of the game. Walter Ayovi nearly struck the back of the net from the edge of the box three minutes later, too, but his effort sailed over the Santos bar.

Delgado off
The 66th minute brought a moment of madness for Delgado, who had been one of Monterrey’s top players up to that point. Chasing a 50-50 ball in midfield, he caught Gomez, who came on at the half, with his studs in a rash challenge and was shown a straight red card. The home side nearly took advantage straight away too, when Darwin Quintero tested Orozco with a snapped header to the near post.

But despite their numerical superiority, Santos Laguna failed to find the form that has taken them to fourth place in the Mexican Clausura and the game ended goalless. The second leg of the 2013 CONCACAF Champions League final series will take place at Monterrey’s Estadio Tecnologico next Wednesday 1 May.

The aggregate winner over both legs will book their place at this year’s FIFA Club World Cup, to be played in Morocco.