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Offshore drilling, Mexico: at Santos Laguna 2 (6), Jaguares de Chiapas 1 (4)

Mexico Canada CONCACAF Soccer

Juan Pablo Rodriguez of Mexico’s Santos Laguna, right, celebrates after taking a penalty kick to score against Canada’s Toronto F.C. during a semi-final match of the CONCACAF Champions League in Torreon, Mexico, Wednesday April 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Alberto Puente)


Man of the Match: For the last hour of the match, Juan Pablo Rodríguez asserted control of a quarterfinal that had been anarchic. While that anarchy was entertaining for fans (giving us nine goals in just 106 minutes), it wasn’t in the best interest of Santos. After an nearly Santos goal made it 5-4, the 32-year-old central midfielder dictated the pace of the game, often spraying the ball around from a deep position, keeping Jaguares chasing the match.

Santos entered today’s second leg up 4-3 after winning in Chiapas mid-week.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • So much for the superlíder curse. The hex on the qualification stage’s winner has been exorcised by Santos, who become the first top seed since the 2009 Apertura to move past the first round.
  • After seven minutes, it didn’t look so promising, with Jaguares finding a quick equalizer. A series of crosses through the area collapsed the Santos defense, allowing Jaguares to play back to midfielder Armando Zamorano for a relatively easy score from near the edge of the area. Santos goalkeeper Oswaldo Sánchez appeared partially screened by his deep-lying defenders.
  • Nine minutes later, Santos would restore their advantage, with Carlos Darwin Quintero playing wide to Jorge Estrada then running to the front of goal to receive the defenders’ return pass for an easy tap it.
  • But it wasn’t until near-20 minutes later that Santos affirmed control of the match. To that point, it had been an open if cagey affair, but in the 34th minute, Santos started exhibiting a comfort standing on the ball, kicking it around and stringing together passess rather than sprinting directly on goal. They were willing to control the game without making it into a track meet.
  • And a large part of the credit for that does to Rodríguez, who put in the work to made sure his attackers at that next level had an outlet before they were closed down, whether that be Quintero, Daniel Ludueña or Christian Suárez.
  • The control paid off in the 38th minute when Oribe Peralta, taking a pass from the left, cut back toward the penalty spot, leaving Ismael Fuentes on the ground in the right of the area. Turning on his right leg, the Mexican international blasted the insurance tally past Edgar Hernández, providing for the final score.
  • Felipe Baloy deserves a nod, too. It was as if a switch was flipped, late in the first half. On consecutive Jaguares attacks, he dispossessed Jackson Martínez and Luis Gabriel Rey, muscling Chiapes’s big two off the ball. The message was clear: Jaguares, your fun is over. And they didn’t score gain.
  • As was reiterated numbers times on the broadcast, this is expected to be Martínez’s last match with Jaguares. The Colombian striker is expected to move this summer, presumable to Liverpool.
  • Jaguares came out in the second having changed from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3, though the change only made things worse. In theory, is made sense to add another attacker so Baloy and Aaron Galindo couldn’t neutralize Martínez and Rey; however, with one less midfielder, a disconnect developed between attack and defense. Even when Jaguares were able to get into attack by playing long for Martínez, their attackers had no support.
  • Though it took them near 120 minutes to assert control of the quarterfinal, Santos looked like the number one seed by the 180th minute. When Baloy asserted himself, he gave us a vision of how Santos can claim this title.
  • Their next opponent? Tigres, in a rematch of the Apertura’s final matchup.

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