Pumas closed out a historic season by coming back to defeat Cruz Azul by a score of 2-1. With the win Pumas clinched the second place in Liga MX. While the game was expected to be the deciding game for the Liguilla, results before that in which Monterrey lost and Tigres tied meant that both teams had booked their ticket to the Liguilla regardless of the result (although a crushing defeat for either team could have still given the ticket to Monterrey). Still it was a city rivalry and with the win, Pumas close out a historic season where for the first time since the short tournament format started, they end with only one loss. Cruz Azul meanwhile ends in the Liguilla, but should be kicking themselves after dominating for large stretches and failing to get the victory.
The first half started with Pumas coming out with close to their best starting lineup. They had the addition of Alan Mozo, whose red card suspension was overturned, but had the bad luck that their goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera was injured in the warmups. Julio Gonzalez took his place. Cruz Azul meanwhile had their best lineup with the return of Santiago Gimenez to the starting lineup instead of Milton Caraglio. A couple of minutes into the game, Gonzalez was tested by a shot from Jonathan Rodriguez that was saved by the Pumas keeper. Pumas had their first dangerous opportunity when they had a great counter, but the final pass by Juan Iturbe was cleared by Adrian Aldrete. Cruz Azul had a good chance when Orbelin Pineda headed a ball in the area, but Gonzalez easily held on to the ball. Then Cruz Azul’s Juan Escobar got a left footed shot in the area straight to Gonzalez’s hands. Cruz Azul had the best opportunity in the game after Mozo lost a ball and after a couple of touches, it ended with a header by Gimenez that Julio Gonzalez was able to deflect in a great save. In the ensuing corner kick, Cruz Azul came close again, but Luis Romo and Gimenez couldn’t get to the ball to head it in what would have been wide open opportunities. Once again Cruz Azul had a great opportunity when Jonathan Rodriguez went in one-on-one against Gonzalez, but he twice got the ball off Jonathan’s feet. Rodriguez then took a shot that was cleared by Nicolas Freire.
It was clear that Cruz Azul had taken control of the game as Pumas couldn’t create any offense. Pumas got a shot off by Juan Pablo Vigon but it was easily handled by Cruz Azul’s goalkeeper, Jesus Corona. Minutes later it looked like Johan Vasquez was injured and had to be subbed out for Gerardo Moreno. The halftime whistle blew and Pumas were lucky to not be trailing.
The second half started and a minute into the game, Santiago Gimenez fell in the area and the referee gave a penalty kick. Replays showed that Gimenez had fallen on his own and it shouldn’t be given as a PK. The ref was called by the VAR official that it was offside even before Gimenez went down and the PK was overruled. Pumas had a great chance when Carlos Gonzalez made a great move to take a shot, but teammate Juan Ignacio Dinenno made a terrible run and ended up blocking his shot. Pumas bad luck continued when Cruz Azul countered and Jonathan Rodriguez made a great pass to Orbelin Pineda, who got a low shot past Julio Gonzalez for the 1-0.
Pumas answered by subbing out Alan Mozo (who had a terrible game) for Carlos Gutierrez. Pumas started to get control of the game and be more offensive than Cruz Azul for the first time of the game, but couldn’t create chances. Against the run of play, Adrian Aldrete got off a shot that forced Gonzalez to make another save. Then after a cross into the area, Pablo Aguilar fell after a clash with Alejandro Mayorga and the ref gave a penalty kick. Although replays showed it was dubious, the ref still held it up. Jonathan Rodriguez took the PK, but his shot was terrible and it went wide.
Pumas subbed out Iturbe for Facundo Waller in what was the team’s last substitution. Waller almost made an impact when he got a shot off a free kick but although it went close, it still was wide. Cruz Azul then subbed out Roberto Alvarado for Ignacio Rivero. Pumas had their best chance of the game when Waller made a great cross that Carlos Gonzalez rose to head but his header went just inches wide from the left post. Later another great cross by Waller, found Dinenno, who gave a good pass to Favio Alvarez, but his shot also went close but wide. Pumas was going all out on the offense and Cruz Azul needed to answer so they subbed out Orbelin Pineda and Santiago Gimenez for Elias Hernandez and Milton Caraglio. Still things continued and after a great cross by Juan Pablo Vigon, Dinenno rose to head the ball past Corona for the 1-1 tying goal. A minute later, Waller made another great cross in the game and Dinenno rose again to the surprise of Cruz Azul’s defense, to head the ball past Corona for the 2-1 lead. Cruz Azul tried to answer with a header by Caraglio that went wide. Pumas held on and not only did they defeated their city rivals but they clinched the second place spot.
Pumas season ends with one of their best result of 2020 Apertura. While they were dominated for most of the game, they held on and with a wonderful performance from Facundo Waller, who changed the game once he entered, Pumas rose to get the victory and second place. Not only does the game end up being a huge emotional boost for the team just as they enter the Liguilla, but they showed that they can be a candidate for the title with a high fighting spirit and strong mentality. Cruz Azul meanwhile loses a victory they had all but wrapped up. After the team had a 1-0 lead and a PK, it looked like they were going to get a 2-0 lead but Rodriguez missed it and the team fell apart after that. It’s true that they couldn’t cope with the loss, but they also couldn’t cope with Waller and the defense twice got beat by Juan Ignacio Dinenno. Cruz Azul will hope that the time off helps the team get out of the funk and mentally prepares for the pressure from the fans that expect the team to finally get their first league title since 1997.