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Cruz Azul were ahead 3-1 at halftime and coming off what Gerardo Torrado would later call their best of the playoffs but Monterrey wound up winning nevertheless.

Everything was there for the taking. Cruz Azul were 45 minutes away from returning home with their first realistic chance of glory since 1997 and needed to just hold on to a lead to make it happen.

Everything fell apart, though, and now Cruz Azul limp home hoping to avoid the failures that have become as much a part of their lore as their eight Mexican league titles.

Cruz Azul squandered a 3-1 lead at Monterrey in Thursday's Apertura Final first leg and lost 4-3.

"When you lose a game like that, the group leaves angry because it's not something you had planned for," Cruz Azul captain Gerardo Torrado told reporters after the match. "But we need to turn this around at home and we have to show character in the return leg."

Cruz Azul shot themselves in the foot at the start of the game when Emanuel Villa scored an own goal. But la Maquina then began to take command of the game as Christian Riveros scored twice and Villa atoned for his mistake with the club's third goal.

A possible repeat performance - at least offensively - of their first playoff game at Puebla seemed possible as Cruz Azul scored four goals there. Instead, their defensive collapse mirrored that first game, when Puebla and Cruz Azul tied 4-4.

It was more a matter of the game taking on odd characterstics from the moment the game began than a reflection of Cruz Azul's mentality, players said.

"It was a strange game from the start," Torrado said. "They went ahead with an own goal and everything seemed to be going Monterrey's way. But we answered, played a great first half, the best of the playoffs."

But with the positives come the negatives.

"We were aggressive," Torrado said. "But the second half was theirs. We did not keep possession of the ball and let them have the game."

For more coverage of the Mexican league final, visit's Mexico page.