Santos Laguna seal place in Copa Libertadores knockout stage
Santos Laguna became the first team to qualify for the knockout stages of the Copa Libertadores after coming from a goal down to thrash Uruguayan champions Penarol 4-1.
Pedro Caixinha’s men moved seven points clear at the top of group eight and now cannot be caught after hitting back to run riot against Penarol, who took the lead inside the opening minute thanks to Javier Toledo’s header.
The visitors were soon under pressure, however, with Andres Renteria striking against the post and Penarol goalkeeper Juan Castillo making two excellent saves.
Carlos Quintero levelled matters for the Mexican side in the ninth minute after slotting home from Jonathan Lacerda’s cross from the left.
Santos Laguna continued to pour forward but they had to wait until just before the hour mark to take the lead, with Dario Rodriguez’s defensive lapse punished by Javier Orozco, who scored after going clean through on goal.
Quintero then gave the home side a two-goal advantage in the 78th minute, with Colombian forward Andres Renteria ensuring there was no way back for Penarol, who remain third in group eight, almost immediately afterwards.
Elsewhere, Zamora of Venezuela moved up to second in group four and above Paraguayan side Nacional after a 2-0 win.
Nacional wasted several chances to break the deadlock in the first half but their failure to capitalise came back to haunt them in the 58th minute as Juan Manuel Falcon latched on to Pedro Ramirez’s ball to fire home.
Zamora then made sure of the points seven minutes later when John Murillo finished a lovely move, again from Ramirez’s assist, to move his side one point behind defending Copa Libertadores champions Atletico Mineiro, who have a game in hand.
Ramirez said afterwards: "It was a crucial match for us. We needed to win to keep our chances alive and we did it.
"We knew that it was going to be tough, they are very dangerous in the air, but we managed to contain them. Now, it is time to maintain the pace and make history."