A late second-half goal by Vitinho was enough to give Atlético San Luis a 1-1 draw Saturday against Monterrey, sending the visitors through to the Liga MX semifinals 2-1 on aggregate.
San Luis advances to face Club América in the semis after knocking out the no. 2 seeded Monterrey. The goal by Brazilian midfielder Vitinho in the 49th minute canceled out an early strike from Monterrey’s Rogelio Funes Mori.
Back and Forth Affair
The match was a tense, back-and-forth affair from the start. Monterrey applied pressure early, desperate to overcome the first-leg deficit. Their ambition paid off in the 8th minute when Jesús Gallardo crossed for Funes Mori to tap in from close range, leveling the tie at 1-1.
The goal silenced San Luis’ traveling support and gave Monterrey the advantage on away goals. However, resolute defending kept their lead to just one at the half.
The complexion changed three minutes after the break. A rapid counter saw San Luis catch Monterrey out of position. John Murillo played a through ball to Vitinho, who slotted home to make it 1-1.
“It was obviously a very emotional goal for me and the team,” Vitinho said. “We knew we had to come here and match Monterrey’s intensity. Scoring so early in the second half gave us belief.”
The aggregate stood at 2-1 San Luis. Despite having over 35 minutes to respond, Monterrey failed to find the decisive second goal.
Shock Early Exit for Monterrey
The result means Monterrey crashed out in the quarterfinals for the second straight tournament. It’s an early exit few predicted from a team that finished second overall in the regular season under coach Fernando Ortiz.
“We’re extremely disappointed to go out this early,” Ortiz said after the match. “We dominated large stretches of both legs but couldn’t get that goal we needed tonight. Football can be cruel. We wish San Luis all the best.”
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Meanwhile, San Luis reached the semis for the first time in their short history. It caps off a remarkable debut season for manager Gustavo Leal.
Newcomers Advance Over Pedigree
In the end, San Luis’ hunger and fight overcame Monterrey’s seasoned pedigree. Despite boasting household names like Funes Mori, Maxi Meza and Jesus Corona, Monterrey rarely clicked into top form during the two legs.
Atletico meanwhile fought relentlessly, particularly after Vitinho’s goal swung momentum in their favor. Despite Monterrey dominating possession late, disciplined defending kept them at bay.
The loss raises further questions about Monterrey’s ability to compete for titles after several barren seasons. With a squad valued at over $60 million, expectations are sky-high at the northern club.
Eyes Turn to Semifinals
San Luis now braces for a semifinal clash against Liga MX giants Club América, who breezed past León 5-2 on aggregate in their quarterfinal.
“We know America will be tough,” said San Luis midfielder Jhon Murillo. “But after beating Rayados we feel we can compete against anyone. Our fans deserve to keep dreaming.”
The first leg takes place at Estadio Azteca on Wednesday night. The return leg will occur Sunday at Alfonso Lastras Stadium, where San Luis hopes home support can carry them to the final.
“No one gave us a chance when the Liguilla started,” Vitinho said. “Now we’re one step away from the final. We have to recover quickly because we play America in three days. But tonight we celebrate a historic victory for San Luis!”