Santos Laguna weathered heavy away pressure and an ejection to score late against Morelia in the first leg of the Mexican Apertura semifinal.
Santos named an unchanged lineup from the quarterfinal win over Jaguares, with Oribe Peralta and Carlos Darwin Quintero together up front. Adrian Aldrete returned to the starting lineup for Morelia, replacing Marvin Cabrera.
Morelia had the best look in the early going as Miguel Sabah latched on to a long pass and found space to shoot, his low shot sailing just wide. Luis Sandoval and Miguel Sabah also tested Oswaldo Sanchez in Santos' goal.
Santos played more patiently, but wasn't quick enough to break down Morelia.
Morelia's early pressure finally played off when Jaime Lozano unleashed a shot from well outside the area. The effort surprised Sanchez as he could do little but flap at the ball as it sailed into the top corner of his goal.
Sabah nearly doubled Morelia's advantage on 16 minutes, but Sanchez pulled off a quick reflex save to prevent his team from falling into an even deeper hole.
The visitors then nearly sparked to life minutes later as Morelia goalkeeper Federico Vilar made a quick save of his own on Peralta.
Vilar came to Morelia's rescue once more as the game took a more back-and-forth tone, denying Christina Suarez in a one-on-one duel. The chaotic nature of the game was further exemplified when Santos defender Jorge Estrada nearly flicked a free kick into his own net, only to be bailed out by a great save from Sanchez.
The veteran goalkeeper was powerless to stop Morelia going 2-0 up as Sandoval shed two defenders and sent a cross directly onto Lugo's head. The midfielder put his effort well out of Sanchez's reach for Morelia's second.
Sanchez continued to keep his team's chances alive as the half dragged to a close, making two crucial saves, first on Aldo Leao and then on Rafael Marquez Lugo with a "scorpion kick" save, blocking a certain goal with the back of his heels.
The second half kicked off with Morelia taking a more conservative outlet, and, despite a pair of early changes by Santos head coach Benjamin Galindo, his side failed to test Federico Vilar until Rodolfo Salinas directed a header into his hands in the 71st minute.
Santos had a golden chance to get back into the game in the 78th minute as substitute Carlos Ochoa headed a free kick across goal, only for Jose Maria Cardenas to somehow miss his header with the goal at his mercy.
Cardenas' chance was just the first of a period 10 minutes from time when the game sprang to life. Sanchez made another smart save, this time one-on-one with Lugo after a well-worked exchange between Morelia players.
The save would prove vital, as just minutes later, Peralta pulled one back for Santos. Ochoa played a through-ball for one of the most lethal strikers in the regular season, and Peralta played it perfectly, rounding Vilar and passing into an empty net.
Santos had to play the final three minutes of the game down a man after Osmar Mares was shown a second yellow card for a late challenge on Sandoval, but it proved inconsequential, as Santos was able to keep the home side out for the remainder of the match.
The late goal gives Santos a ray of hope heading into the return leg, where it plays at home and can win by one goal and advance by virtue of the tiebreaker, having finished third in the regular season compared to Morelia's seventh-place finish.
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