Monterrey wins Mexico Apertura title

Monterrey won Mexico’s Apertura league title on Sunday, defeating

Cruz Azul 2-1 to take the two-game final series 6-4 on aggregate.

Aldo de Nigris gave Monterrey a 1-0 lead with a header in the

55th minute, taking a perfect, looping cross from Chile

international Humberto Suazo.

Alejandro Castro equalized in the 77th for Cruz Azul, which

needed one more goal to force extra time. Suazo ended that

possibility, scoring with just seconds left in regular time.

The title is only Monterrey’s third, and its first since

2003. For Cruz Azul, it was another disappointment for one of

Mexico’s so-called big four clubs. This was the third final for

Cruz Azul in the last four seasons – and it has lost all three and

has not won the title in 12 years.

De Nigris has scored key goals for Monterrey throughout the

playoffs, driven by the memory of his brother and former Monterrey

player, Antonio, who died of a heart attack last month in Greece

where he played for Larissa.

“The way this team hung together is the key,” Monterrey

goalkeepeer Jonathan Orozco said. “We have always stayed united

despite everything. That’s the strength of this team.”

Some of the credit also goes to Monterrey coach Victor Manuel

Vucetich who has now led four different clubs to four finals,

winning them all.

“I liked the personality of this team, the caliber of the

players – and their temperament, which is the most important,”

Vucetich said.

Playing the second leg in its own stadium on the south side

of Mexico City, Cruz Azul seldom had long spells of possession and

failed to break down Monterrey at the back. Even after it scored,

it failed to put much pressure on the club from northeastern

Mexico.

Suazo scored two goals in the 4-3 first-leg victory Thursday

at Monterrey, and this may have been his last match in Mexico with

reports he is headed to English club Sunderland. He acknowledged

his interest in leaving, but tried to enjoy the moment.

“Tomorrow or Tuesday we’ll see about this,” Suazo said. “I’m

proud of having won a title outside my country.”

Cruz Azul came close to scoring in the 81st when Javier

Orozco shot just wide, which set the stage for Suazo’s final goal.

“It’s a shame that we couldn’t lift the trophy in our

stadium,” Cruz Azul defender Fausto Pinto said. “We wanted to run a

victory lap in our stadium. We did what we could, but we didn’t

quite make it.”

Monterrey is the seventh different champion in seven seasons.

In the last 26 seasons, only one team – Pumas – has managed to win

back-to-back titles.

Cruz Azul hired coach Enrique Meza after last season. Meza

has won three titles with Toluca and one with Pachuca. But in three

previous stints as Cruz Azul’s manager, he failed to bring it

titles. Cruz Azul has now been the runner-up eight times, one fewer

than the record of nine by Guadalajara’s Chivas.