Before I get started, I have to say kudos to Pumas. The historic feat they just accomplished last night was simply amazing and one that we probably won’t see again for a number of years. And despite the fact I don’t agree with Pumas’ style of play along with their substandard defense, one must recognize the effort displayed and truly acknowledge what Lillini’s squad were able to complete in yesterday’s second leg. If there’s one thing we can’t argue, it’s the fact this squad never gave up and kept going until they finally reached their objective in the 89th minute. So, congrats to Pumas and all their fanbase.
With all of that being said, it was flat out shameful to see Siboldi’s gameplan in action for the second consecutive Sunday; sit back, stand around, follow the ball, and most of all, give up attacking. That’s right, we wouldn’t want these elite, high-conditioned athletes to do their job and put in a little effort in the deciding game of a Semi-Final series. But we saw the exact same thing in the second leg vs. Tigres a week ago, and how they got saved by the two shots off the post. Had Tigres been a little more lucky, Cruz Azul would’ve been eliminated in the QF.
How can a team change so much three days later? This is a team who utterly dominated Lillini’s squad on Thursday night, won by a 4-0 final, and coud’ve scored many more. They showed top class, quality, and utter superiority. What changed? Other than the keeper (Jurado) and the left-back (“Shaggy” Martínez), the only other change was the gameplan. They decided to concede game initiative to Pumas (something I will never understand for the life of me) after they had proven so efficient and dangerous with ball control in the previous match. I’m not saying continue to attack as if the score was even. What I am saying is don’t renounce attacking altogether just because you have a lead, no matter how big it may seem. Always play to win.
The main reason why they should’t have changed their gameplan so radically was that with just a single goal, Pumas would’ve been forced to score 6 to stay alive. Yes, even with the score 3-0 at the start of the second half, had Siboldi attempted some sort of assault which had been successful, Pumas would’ve had to double what they had at that point. That would’ve almost certainly sentenced the series. But instead, he chose to cave, pull troops even further back in defense, and cling to his 1-goal advantage. And after a dismal first half, he even had the half-time break to make adjustments, come out firing in the second 45 minutes, and reestablish a little order in the very least. That’s the least anyone would expect. However, he instead chose to go with the “do-nothing, hope for the best” approach.
Very few times have I witnessed such a steep decline from one game to the next. And what’s more, during the final 20 minutes, Cruz Azul players truly seemed to forget how to play with the ball at their feet; they were late chasing down every loose ball, couldn’t get in front of Pumas’ attackers and regain possession, couldn’t put together a solid attack, and seemed to just float outside of their penalty box, weakly clearing every single ball they were able to get a body part onto. It was truly incredible to watch. But all the incredulousness was turned into shame after witnessing Pablo Aguilar’s meager effort when Alan Mozo sent his cross straight to Vigón, who received the ball without a mere scratch on his body, comfortably turned around and placed his shot for Pumas’ 4th as Aguilar simply watched, despite him having Vigón from the start. What the Paraguayan was attempting to accomplish by letting the striker loose, we’ll never know.
An all in all painful experience to witness for Cruz Azul fans, and it was in great part due to Siboldi’s fearful gameplan. Instead of coming out and estabilishing his top-quality team on the pitch like they had done only three days prior, he opted for a more “take it easy, don’t risk an injury for the Final” approach. The least you should demand out of your players as a head coach is that they give it their all physically, and leave nothing on the pitch in that sense. The fact he wasn’t even able to muster that, tell me this was mostly an attitude issue and pinpoints the blame directly on him. Whether or not this will cost Siboldi his job is not for us to decide. But to ask wheteher or not this type of loss is “job-costing” worthy, it most certainly is.