With six minutes remaining in the second leg of this year’s CONCACAF Champions League final, the game seemed to be up for two-time defending champions Monterrey. Trailing 2-1 at home to Santos and by the same aggregate scoreline after a goalless first leg, Los Rayados looked set to relinquish the title to the team they beat in last year’s final.
Those last six minutes proved to be memorable ones, however, as the home side struck three times to emerge 4-2 winners and book themselves a place at the FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2013, the third time running they will be appearing in the world finals for clubs.
Having lost just one of their last eight games in reaching both the final and the Mexican championship play-offs, Los Guerreros were confident of winning their first international title and gaining immediate revenge for the painful loss to Monterrey 12 months ago. Sadly for them it was not to be, as Los Rayados showed their pedigree when it mattered most.
Regional top dogs in the previous two seasons, Monterrey went into the 2012/13 CONCACAF Champions League with designs on becoming the first team to win the competition three times since the introduction of the current format in 2008.
The holders made a perfect start to their defence, easing through the group phase without dropping a point or conceding a goal, while scoring 15 of their own. In the last eight they saw off Xelaju of Guatemala 4-2 on aggregate and then disposed of Los Angeles Galaxy 3-1 over two legs to move into the final again.
There seems to be no end to the romance between coach Victor Vucetich and Monterrey. Since taking charge in 2009 he has put together a hugely effective side, one that he knows inside out. Known as 'King Midas' for very good reason, Vucetich has won 12 trophies in his coaching career and is now intent on taking his charges further than the third place they managed at last year’s FIFA Club World Cup in Japan.
Mexican big guns Guadalajara were red-hot favourites to advance from Group 8 of the first phase but reckoned without 2012 Guatemalan Clausura champions Xelaju, who stunned everyone by taking top spot themselves. Though beaten in the quarter-finals by the eventual champions, the Guatemalan underdogs exited with their heads held high after holding Monterrey to a 1-1 draw in Mexico in the second leg of that tie.
The biggest surprise on an individual level were the performances of Nicolas Munoz, of El Salvador’s Isidro Metapan. Though his team failed to progress beyond the group phase after winning just one game, the Panama-born striker hit six goals in their four matches and ended the competition as joint-top scorer.
Another front man to distinguish himself was Santos’ experienced Colombian Carlos Darwin Quintero, who matched Munoz’s six-goal haul, taking his overall tournament tally to a club-record 17.
Though their strong suit is their team play, Los Rayados were also indebted to stars such as Humberto Suazo, who has now scored five times in CONCACAF Champions League finals. Team-mate Aldo de Nigris also played a key role, slotting home the goal that sealed Monterrey’s place at Morocco 2013. With 14 goals, De Nigris is just two behind El Chupete as the club’s all-time leading marksman in the competition.
Excelling at the back throughout was Oswaldo Sanchez of Santos, who was voted the tournament’s outstanding goalkeeper after conceding one goal or less in nine straight games.
Did you know?
Monterrey’s fellow Mexicans Cruz Azul were the last team to win the CONCACAF title three years running. Los Cementeros achieved the feat in 1969, 1970 and 1971.
1 - The number of defeats Monterrey have suffered against Mexican sides in the competition, that solitary reverse coming in the second leg of last year’s final against Santos, one that did not prevent them taking the trophy. In their nine other meetings with their compatriots, Los Rayados have won seven and drawn two.
What they said
“With the way things turned out, it was an amazing victory. It has to be said that Santos played a very good final and they showed why they had the best defence in the competition. The team really stuck to their task though, even when they were losing, and showed a real will to win,” Monterrey coach Victor Manuel Vucetich.