On Saturday afternoon at the Estadio Azul in Mexico City, Cruz Azul hosted Pumas UNAM. Everything was set for this to be a good game; two of the big four teams were playing and both desperate for a win and needing the points to stay relevant in the tournament. Cruz Azul and Pumas both lined up in slightly different variations of a 4-5-1 formation. Both coaches were feeling the pressure. Pumas coach, David Patiño, had been given the dreaded vote of confidence by the higher ups at Pumas, but the pressure was still high to turn the season around. Coach Pedro Caixinha had a bit more breathing room because of the pounding they had given Pachuca last weekend.
Pumas made an attack on Jose de Jesus Corona’s goal right away. In the 2nd minute, Nico Castillo took a chance and put the ball just wide of the goal. Pumas then won a corner and Arribas headed it towards goal, but Corona was able to get ahold of it.
Cruz Azul got the ball back and took it to Pumas right away. In the 8th minute, Walter Montoya put in a pass to Felipe Mora, who got off a powerful shot that barely missed going in.
Arribas was badly injured for Pumas in the 11th minute, and coach Patiño was forced to make his first substitution very early on.
The game continued at a good pace and the attacks kept coming. In the 18th minute, Marcelo Diaz shot at goal powerfully and forced Corona to make a spectacular save and send it for a corner. Mora got in a good header in the 21st minute, but the ball went right to the hands of Saldivar.
Pumas was awarded a free kick in the 29th minute, which Nico Castillo took. The ball was well hit but off by a few centimeters and it bounced off the post.
Pumas kept up the pressure, and in the 31st minute, Castillo took another shot at goal that was barely kept out by Corona. It looked like a Pumas goal was eminent if Cruz Azul could not find a way to slow them down and create pressure of their own. Inspired by Castillo, Jesus Gallardo took his own shot and put it just over the crossbar at the 35th minute. Cruz Azul looked overwhelmed and like they were just waiting for the half to end so they could regroup.
At minute 41, Cruz Azul finally responded with a cross from Mena to Mendez, who got in a good shot but Saldivar kept it out once again.
Right before the end of the half, Castillo took another powerful shot at goal that was handled well by Corona once again. With all the possession and most of the chances, Pumas should have had a lead at the half, but thanks to good work by Corona and bad finishing, they could not capitalize and the half ended in a 0-0 tie. Pumas had a lot of bark but no bite, Cruz Azul looked shocked by the intensity of the game and seemed ill prepared for the speed and tenacity of their opponent.
The second half got going with a yellow card for David Cabrera of Pumas in the 46th minute that gave Cruz Azul a free kick and a couple of chances from the corner.
In the 51st minute, Nico Castillo was taken down in the area by Flores and a penalty was awarded. Castillo took the shot himself and put it passed Corona, Pumas was finally rewarded for all their efforts.
After going down in the score, Cruz Azul was forced to try and get an equalizer. At the 56th minute, they earned another corner but could not make anything happen. The cementeros had the ball but their attempts to tie the game seemed very halfhearted.
Pumas counterattacked, and Gallardo got the ball on the left wing and put in a good shot that Corona was able to keep out. Abraham Gonzalez then came on for Formica and right away scored, but he was called offsides and the goal did not count.
In the 64th minute, Cruz Azul made two changes by bringing in Peña and Cauteruccio, hoping to get back into the game.
Pumas slowed down the game and tried to counterattack, as Cruz Azul got ever more desperate to tie the score. In the 71st minute, Mendez was shown the yellow card as he committed a hard foul to stop a Pumas counter attack.
Three minutes later, Baca was taken off and Martin Rodriguez came on for Cruz Azul to try and generate more offense.
In the 82nd minute, Peña got a ball in a bad angle and put in a shot that the Pumas defense was able to clear. Moments later, Peña once again got off a good shot, but Saldivar was able to get the ball and hold on.
Pumas had nine players behind the midfield line and kept trying to catch Cruz Azul off guard, as they went forward with everything. Alan Mozo almost scored when he took the ball all the way to the goal on a counter, but the ball went wide.
In the 88th minute, Cruz Azul even sent up Corona on a corner in a last ditch effort to score. The referee added four minutes to the game to make up for lost time. Cauteruccio and Roco both had good shots on target but Saldivar kept both of them out. In the 92nd minute, Cauteruccio again took on the whole Pumas defense but could not score.
Finally, Enzo Roco got on the end of a ball that came in from the corner and put in a header that ended up in the back of the net. The game was finally tied, and much to the relief of the home crowd, Cruz Azul was able to rescue a point at home.
Entertaining to the very end
The game was not technically great but it was very fun to watch for fans an neutrals alike. Pumas came out strong and went right at Cruz Azul, who looked shocked and could not get in the game. Pumas defender Arribas was injured and possibly broke his arm, taken out of the stadium by an ambulance. As ever, Nico Castillo gave it his all and was finally rewarded with a goal.
In the second half, Cruz Azul brought in all of their offensive players but they had no plan. Caixinha sent his players on the field but failed to provide them with guidance. By sheer force of will and by throwing everything they had at Pumas, Cruz Azul was able to get a point. Both teams were all effort and heart and even showed a bit of improvement. In the end, they shared the points but neither team did much to help their chances of getting into the Liguilla.