Toluca has defending champ Santos on the ropes

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Defending Mexican champion Santos Laguna is in serious trouble after failing to take a positive home result in a 0-0 draw against an extremely organized and dangerous Diablos Rojos of Toluca on Thursday night, the first match of their semifinal series.

A large part for the lack of scoring had to do with the record-breaking performance of Toluca's Argentine goalkeeper, Hernán Cristante, who established a new record of 746 minutes without allowing a goal.

Cristante surpassed the record of 736 minutes that was set in the 1993-94 season by Tecos goalkeeper Alan Cruz.

The match itself was a close and heavily disputed encounter, with constant attacks down the wings and dangerous approximations in both areas.

It was up to both veteran goalkeepers, Oswaldo Sánchez and Cristante, to preserve the purity of their goal, with a number of incredible dives and saves.

Santos took the attacking initiative in the early minutes but its efforts suffered a heavy blow with an early injury to midfielder Fernando Arce, who was substituted in the seventh minute.

For their part, the Diablos demonstrated a great defensive order which controlled and subdued the dangerous Santos offense for large parts of the match.

Through a constant stream of dangerous counterattacks, Toluca came the closest to take the victory, but its efforts were denied by a good performance by Santos' Sánchez.

With the result, Toluca has the champions teetering on the edge of elimination since the decisive match of the series will be played at the inferno of "La Bombonera," where they were the best home side of the regular season.

Toluca was the second-best team in the general table and it will go through in case of a draw in the aggregate score. Santos only has the option of victory to continue defending its title.

The second leg of this semifinal series will take place on Sunday at the Estadio Nemesio Díez in Toluca.