Magical Monterrey on top again
© AFP

Monterrey’s emphatic 3-0 defeat of Santos Laguna in the second leg of the 2010 Mexican Apertura final left no one in any doubt that they are worthy league champions. A goal down from the first leg in Torreon, Los Rayados turned the season-ending decider around in convincing style to win their fourth league crown and their second in the last three seasons.

Coached by Victor Manuel Vucetich, the man they call “King Midas” and the winner of four championships prior to this one, Los Regiomontanos have been the most consistent side in the land from start to finish. Losing only three games in the regular season, they finished with the second-best record of the eight play-off qualifiers before disposing of two recent champions in Pachuca and Pumas UNAM en route to overpowering Santos Laguna.

The finalists
Monterrey’s triumph was founded on their strength in depth. The star performers in a side packed with internationals were goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco, central-defensive duo Duilio Davino and Jose Maria Basanta, and Ecuadorian midfielder Walter Ayovi, one of the stand-outs in the Mexican season as a whole. Up front, meanwhile, Aldo de Nigris and Humberto Suazo were in exceptional form.

Runners-up for the second time in a row after last season’s penalty-shootout loss to Toluca, Santos Laguna suffered another traumatic end to a hugely promising campaign. No one will take defeat more badly than their coach Ruben Omar Romano, who has now lost four grand finals in all. Once the dust has settled, however, Los Laguneros can take pride from the entertaining brand of football they have produced over the last few months.

The surprises
San Luis and Jaguares were identified as potential candidates for relegation at the start of the season but surprised everyone by reaching the play-offs. Respective coaches Ignacio Ambriz and Guadalupe Cruz have fashioned well-drilled units that comfortably exceeded their fans’ early expectations.

The disappointments
After topping the regular-season standings Cruz Azul promptly fell flat on their faces when the knockout phase began, slumping to a terminal home defeat to arch-rivals Pumas, who had only scraped into the play-offs as the eighth and last qualifier. Having grown all-too accustomed to disappointments and setbacks, Los Celestes will have to wait at least another season before they can break their seemingly endless trophy curse.

Players of the season
The 2010 Apertura will remembered for the enterprising football it produced, with several in-form forwards taking the opportunity to show their goalscoring skills remain intact. A case in point was Humberto Suazo, who returned from Zaragoza to strike up a productive partnership with Aldo de Nigris.

The star of Santos Laguna’s run to the final was undoubtedly Christian Benitez, who himself had plenty to prove after a frustrating stay in England. America’s Vicente Sanchez produced more assists than anyone, while fellow semi-finalists Pumas UNAM’s strong suit was their cohesiveness. And though their campaign ended in failure, Cruz Azul can take heart from Cristian Gimenez’s displays in midfield.

Top scorer
Anxious to put his disappointing spell with Birmingham City behind him, Benitez started the season with a brace in Santos Laguna’s opening game and never stopped scoring. The Ecuadorian poacher finished the regular season with 14 goals and finished well clear of Suazo as the league’s leading marksman.

Did you know?
Though now a five-time championship winner, this is the first time that Victor Manuel Vucetich has won the title twice with the same club. The Rayados coach earned his golden nickname by making Leon, Tecos and Pachuca domestic champions, and has also won two Mexican Cups with Tigres and Cruz Azul.

What they said
“The team is the reason we won this, not me. There are 11 of us in the side and we hit our absolute peak today. I’m so happy we’ve won the league and I think we played the perfect game today. This is reward for all the players, who’ve kept on fighting all the way,” Humberto Suazo, Monterrey forward.

Final standings
Champions: Monterrey
Runners-up: Santos
Semi-finalists: Pumas and America

Leading goalscorers
14 goals: Christian Benitez
10: Humberto Suazo
9: Johan Fano and Itamar Batista