TORREON, Mexico - Neri Cardozo gave Monterrey its second straight title in the CONCACAF Champions League on Wednesday, scoring with eight minutes remaining in a 2-1 loss against Santos that earned "Los Rayados" a 3-2 aggregate win.
Cardozo converted after an exchange of passes with second-half substitute Walter Ayovi, whose insertion into the lineup in the 63rd minute was just enough to get Monterrey the crown.
The late goal continued the title frustration for Santos, which lost in a final for the fourth time in three years.
Cardozo's goal capped a night in which Santos dominated play, but was frustrated by a series of first-half athletic saves by goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco.
Monterrey, which has been held without a goal in only one of its last 18 matches, lost for only the second time in 12 away matches in the Champions League.
"It's obvious teams don't win because of us (coaches), but because of the players (...)" Monterrey manager Victor Manuel Vucetich said. "The key is to always work hard and to put together teams with a strong mentality and a constant desire to improve. But I think the credit is for the players. They are the ones who do the work on the field, the ones who make the sacrifices and show their skills. I think we put our grain of sand to get the best out of them, but after that, they do all the work."
Both sides played with significant absences due to accumulated yellow cards. Monterrey had to use Cesar Delgado in place of tournament scoring leader Humberto Suazo, while Santos was without defenders Felipe Baloy and Osmar Mares, utilizing Rafael Figueroa and Cesar Ibanez instead.
Although Santos had the services of Oribe Peralta, who missed the first leg because of yellow-card suspension, it started the match with Herculez Gomez and Marc Crosas on the bench.
Playing at home in Estadio Nuevo Corona where it had scored six goals in three of its last four Champions League matches, Santos had the better possession and chances throughout, not allowing Monterrey a shot on goal Darvin Chavez's shot into goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez's hands in the 44th minute.
"Los Rayados" had a spate of possession midway through the second half and created some dangerous moments shortly after Ayovi replaced Angel Reyna in the 63rd. But the most it could muster was a shot from distance by Ayovi that flew just over the bar in the 70th before Santos regained control of the possession.
"They are the just champions," Santos coach Benjamin Galindo said. "In Monterrey, they beat us through and through. Tonight we had a great opportunity in front of our fans...and we accomplished the most difficult task, scoring two goals against them is very difficult to do; we created chances and played well... But we knew we were facing a great team, because man-to-man, they also have a great roster."
Santos took the initiative from the opening kickoff, pressing Monterrey in its own half and drawing yellow cards from Aldo De Nigris and Orozco in the first seven minutes.
Orozco was called on early, starting with a punch wide of a Christian Suarez shot in the ninth minute.
He frustrated Darwin Quintero the rest of the half, coming off his line to intercept a cross and knock it away in the 13th, tipping a blast high in the 17th and blocking a low shot with his feet in the 34th. Orozco also had to tip a shot by Ivan Estrada high in the 37th.
Ludena finally gave Santos the lead in the third minute of first-half injury time, finishing a play that started with a square ball from Rodolfo Salinas. Juan Pablo Rodriguez sent it into Quintero, who played a quick touch to Ludena at the 18. Ludena had a touch, put it on his right foot and struck a right-footed drive into the upper right corner.
Peralta doubled the lead and equalized the aggregate in the 51st after Quintero again found space. He dribbled between two defenders on the right and closed on goal before sending a cross that Orozco was able to deflect high with an extended right arm.
Salinas missed with an overhead scissors attempt, but Peralta raced in from the top of the area to strike the bounding ball with his right foot. The goal gave him seven in the Champions League, earning him a share of the tournament scoring title with Suazo and the Golden Ball award as the most valuable player in a 50-50 vote among fans and reporters.
Gomez replaced Ludena in the 57th minute, but even after Santos regain control of the possession for the final 20 minutes, it failed to generate any threats that troubled Orozco.
Cardozo scored his second goal of the Champions League after sending a short ball to Ayovi and getting it back immediately, taking the ball off his chest and pushing it past Sanchez.
The loss was the first for Santos at home in 12 games, dating back to a 1-0 loss in the Mexican Apertura playoffs to Tigres in December.