Pumas had a historic night when they came back from 4-0 in the aggregate to get a 4-0 win and qualify to the Final. This made the final a 1 vs 2 team as they face Leon in the Liga MX final to the surprise of everyone, even most Pumas fans as they faced a Cruz Azul team who probably because of overconfidence witnessed a terrible night from Cruz Azul’s defense. Pumas will now have an uphill battle, but they couldn’t get a bigger emotional boost that what they did after getting the biggest comeback in Liguilla’s history against one of their biggest rivals. Cruz Azul meanwhile will have the opposite feeling.
The first half started with Pumas coming in with an offensive starting lineup, including midfielder Leonel Lopez playing instead of Erik Lira and Juan Iturbe instead of Facundo Waller. Cruz Azul meanwhile only change was starting goalkeeper Sebastian Jurado instead of Jesus Corona and Jose Martinez for the injured Adrian Aldrete. A minute in Cruz Azul had the first chance when a Juan Escobar shot got deflected forcing Pumas’ goalkeeper Julio Gonzalez to make a save. Two minutes later, Pumas struck first. On a corner kick, the ball was left there by Julio Cesar Dominguez and Juan Ignacio Dinenno got the ball and shot it past Jurado for the 1-0.
Pumas continued to try to attack, but Cruz Azul took advantage of that and suddenly started dominating possession and being the more dangerous team. Pumas improved somewhat but they still were not as crisp as Cruz Azul looked when they had possession. It looked like Pumas had scored again after a rebound from a shot from Iturbe fell to Dinenno, but Iturbe was ruled to be offside from the pass before that. VAR though showed that the ball had instead bounced off of Cruz Azul’s Rafael Baca and thus Dinenno’s shot was correctly allowed, making it 2-0. Minutes later, Carlos Gonzalez made a great play in the area and went past the defender Escobar, getting a great shot past Jurado for the 3-0 lead and putting Pumas within one goal on the aggregate. Pumas had been playing the best the best they had in the game and were close to getting the miracle. In the final minute of the half, Jonathan Rodriguez tripped in the area after a clash with Nicolas Freire and the ref awarded a penalty. Replays showed that there was contact but it was a soft PK at most, but the ref went to VAR and it showed that Luis Romo had been offside before the cross and thus the play was ruled offside and no penalty was awarded. Pumas had time for Carlos Gonzalez to get a shot that forced Jurado to make a save. Later Cruz Azul had another chance when Rodriguez got a shot that forced Julio Gonzalez to make save. The halftime whistle blew and Pumas had showed a great performance to make things super interesting.
The second half started with Pumas only needing just one goal more to get their ticket to the semifinals, something that had Cruz Azul fans very nervous. A minute in a clash between Ignacio Rivero and Alejandro Mayorga had the defender injured. Although Mayorga tried to go back in, because it was a head injury, the team decided to sub him out for Jeronimo Rodriguez. Cruz Azul came close off a free kick when Luis Romo headed the ball but no other Cruz Azul player could reach for a second header. Later Dominguez came up with a header from a free kick. Pumas answered with a header by Carlos Gonzalez that went wide. Pumas then came close with a header by Johan Vasquez off of a corner kick, but Jurado was well placed to get the ball. Cruz Azul made their first move by subbing out Roberto Alvarado for Yoshimar Yotun. Cruz Azul had started to get more possession and it was looking like their dominance on the first half before the second goal. Cruz Azul came close when Orbelin Pineda almost took advantage of a terrible play by Julio Gonzalez, who jumped to try to get to the ball late and gifted him a free header, but Pineda’s header went wide. Pumas subbed out Leonel Lopez, who had played well, for Facundo Waller. Minutes later they would make their last move by subbing out Iturbe for Sebastian Saucedo.
Pumas continued on the attack but they were getting tired and Cruz Azul was sitting back more, thus controlling their attacks. Then in the 88th minute, Juan Pablo Vigon got the ball in the area after a cross by Mozo and a terrible mistake by a Cruz Azul defender, he got off a right footed shot past Jurado to make it 4-0 and put Pumas ahead on aggregate thanks to the tiebreaker. Cruz Azul immediately subbed out Jose Maritnez for Santiago Gimenez. Later they subbed out Rafael Baca for Misael Dominguez. Still the final minutes were handled well by Pumas, who accomplished a football miracle on a historic night.
As a Pumas fan, the analysis is simple. Pumas is the best team in the world and they showed it. That is all.
But seriously, Pumas put up a heroic fight and a historic performance on the night. While they didn’t play the best game tactically, they played with heart and gave their best game of the season, of this year, and maybe in recent memory. In a game where the majority of people expected Cruz Azul to be in the final, they were the first team to come back from a 4-0 loss in the first leg and advance. They will get a boost if they have the return of Alfredo Talavera, and although there will be a lot to analyze, tonight it’s all about celebrating what the team did.
Cruz Azul meanwhile will have the total opposite. The fact this team has an historic streak of losing to the point they are made fun with the word “Cruzazulear” for when you choke in Mexico, this was the worst Cruzazuleada of them all. While a lot of criticism goes to Sebastian Jurado, he wasn’t at fault for any goals, while the veteran defense of players like Aguilar and Dominguez made terrible mistakes and were at fault for three of the goals. Cruz Azul fans will be at their lowest point after once again tripping on the same hurdle and in the worst possible way. Now Cruz Azul would go from being the possible favorite for the final to a team reeling. Yet it would be a mistake to not appreciate that it was more because of Pumas and their great performance, that they were able to get back and turn things from the worst team in the Liguilla after their games against Pachuca, to giving what probably will be the most historic moment in it.