Cruz Azul got an important win against Pumas but will not be happy with their performance after failing to close a game they were overly superior in and up a player. Pumas fans will hate the VAR (Video Assistant Referee) as it gave a second yellow card to Kevin Escamilla and took away the equalizing goal, but they should hate on some of the defensive performances from Pumas more, especially in the first half where the Universitarios were outplayed. The loss finishes Pumas’ chances to get to the Liguilla, while Cruz Azul seems to have almost clinched their spot, although their second half performance will bring a lot of worries and displeasure to their fans.
Cruz Azul started the game being by far the better team, with a couple of dangerous chances. Nothing beat a sitter than Orbelin Pineda missed after being 2 vs 1 and going past the keeper but incredibly not shooting it into the open net, instead passing it to his teammate Edgar Mendez who couldn’t react to the ball.
Cruz Azul continued dominating as Pumas just held on. Pumas once again lost a ball for a Cruz Azul opportunity that ended with a great save by Alfredo Saldivar off a Edgar Mendez shot.
For Pumas, Carlos Gonzalez almost scored one of the goal’s of the tournament but his goal was ruled offside. After more control in favor of Cruz Azul, Pumas got another chance off a counter that Victor Malcorra skied.
A controversy happened when Kevin Escamilla got a second yellow card after the ref went to VAR (he had just called it a foul) and left Pumas with 10 players. Almost immediately Milton Caraglio forced Saldivar to make a big save off a left footed shot.
Later on a penalty kick was given when Pablo Jaquez brought Milton Caraglio down, although it was controversial call. Caraglio converted it for the 1-0.
Cruz Azul took that lead to halftime which should’ve been by more goals.
The second half started with Cruz Azul going for more goals, but it was Pumas who came close to scoring off a free kick by Pablo Barrera that Cruz Azul’s goalkeeper Jesus Corona had to stop. Then off a corner kick, Alan Mozo also forced Corona to make another save but it lead to a counter in which it looked like Saldivar brought down a Cruz Azul player. Nonetheless, the ref said to play on.
Then off a free kick, Caraglio headed alone for the 2-0. It looked like it was offside but after going to the VAR, it was clear that David Cabrera had failed to pull the offside trap and allowed Caraglio to be onside.
Pumas tried to start a come back and they were helped when Pablo Aguilar got late against Juan Iturbe and brought him down giving them a penalty kick. Pablo Barrera converted it for the 2-1.
Pumas started bringing the pressure and almost scored when Corona failed to appropriately clear an Alan Mozo cross. Then against the run of play it looked like Pumas had tied the game when Mozo scored but the VAR once again called it back. That decision seemed to deflate Pumas and Cruz Azul started to gain back control of the game with Jonathan Rodriguez making two shots that were saved, once by Saldivar, once by defender Luis Quintana.
In extra time, Pablo Aguilar almost gave Pumas the equalizer when he crashed a clearance into the upper post, in what would have been a sure own goal as he had his keeper beaten.
Pumas then had one final chance to tie in the final play of the game but Carlos Gonzalez missed a ball crossed into the area. Cruz Azul held on to a game they should’ve finished earlier in the game.
The game will bring a lot of joy to Cruz Azul fans in their constant rivalry with Pumas but it can also bring a lot of worries. Cruz Azul dominated clearly but couldn’t put away a Pumas team that had some disastrous defending and were down a man for most of the game.
Pumas, on the other hand, can’t be surprised with the result or their elimination. While fans might have some pride for the fighting spirit showed, they shouldn’t fool themselves with the subpar performance from a lot of their players, especially on defense.
Cruz Azul will now try to continue improving towards the Liguilla as they play away in Lobos BUAP, while Pumas will hope for a nice finish to their season as they face their last home game against Toluca.