Monarcas Morelia triumphed at home over Cruz Azul thanks to two late goals from Rafael Marquez Lugo. Jose de Jesus Corona put in a superb performance in goal for the visitors.Rafael Marquez Lugo scored two goals in the last 15 minute as Morelia won the first leg of its playoff series with Cruz Azul 2-1. Jonathan Orozco had given Cruz Azul the lead in the first half, but a strong second half and a red card to Cruz Azul's Fausto Pinto helped the home side to a win.
Both teams were without important defensive pieces. Waldo Ponce missed out for Cruz Azul, while an injury to Joel Huiqui forced Morelia head coach Tomas Boy to field a makeshift defense with Adrian Aldrete at center back and Jaime Lozano at left back.
Both teams had dangerous moments early on, especially when Cruz Azul's Emmanuel Villa put through a low cross, only for the Morelia defense to turn it behind. Minutes later, Morelia's Aldo Leao forced a fingertip save out of Jose de Jesus Corona.
Thanks in no small part to Javier Aquino's work down the right side, Cruz Azul started to take control of the proceedings and missed a glorious opportunity on 18 minutes. Villa put a close-range finish inches wide of the post after a well placed cross from Aquino.
The visitors' persistence would pay off 15 minutes later.
Once again, Aquino was at the center of things, serving up a cross from the right that Gerardo Torrado managed to redirect on goal. Federico Vilar made the initial save, but couldn't come up with the ball, allowing Javier Orozco to pounce and open the scoring in the series.
Aquino continued to wreak havoc down the right, but Cruz Azul couldn't find a way to increase its lead. Morelia threatened from range as the half drew to a close. Enrique Perez nearly surprised Corona from outside the area, firing just wide, with Aldo Ramirez following suit in stoppage time.
Morelia continued to pour the pressure on the visitors as the hour mark drew close. Rafael Marquez Lugo was the next to test Corona, this time with a header from close range, but Corona pulled off another tricky save to turn it behind.
Cruz Azul defender Fausto Pinto made the task ahead even harder for his side in the 70th minute. He was overheard by fourth official Mauricio Morales insulting Boy on the Morelia bench and was promptly shown the red card by center referee Erim Ulloa.
In a rare foray into the Morelia half, Cruz Azul earned a free kick on the left side in the 75th minute and Christian Gimenez nearly suprised Vilar at the near post. On the other end, Corona was once again the savior for his team, making yet another difficult save on Sandoval.
It was a memorable performance from Corona, whose last appearance in Morelia resulted in a six-game suspension and the loss of his place on the Mexican national team. However, he would finally have to pick the ball up out of his net just as it looked he might carry his team to a win.
Sabah found the head of Marquez Lugo with a precise cross, and the 30-year-old forward made no mistake, looping the ball past a diving Corona.
Despite some mild resistance from Cruz Azul, Morelia found a second goal not long after equalizing. In the 85th minute, Jaime Lozano found Marquez Lugo in the center of the area and the forward made no mistake, using the inside of his foot to guide the ball past Corona.
The result gives Morelia a slight advantage heading into the return leg, set for Nov. 26 at the Estadio Azul in Mexico City. In the event of a tie on aggregate, the team with the highest finish in the regular season standings will advance to the semifinals.