Pumas wasted the lifeline given to them by Cruz Azul’s victory over America, finishing the Copa GNP por Mexico tournament with a scoreless draw against Toluca. Cruz Azul’s 4-1 win against America and the fact that Pumas had one yellow card against America’s three, meant that a 2-0 win over Toluca would have given Pumas the final semifinal spot of the tournament. The scoreless tie eliminated Pumas while Toluca was already eliminated coming into the game. America will now face Chivas in a Superclasico match, while Cruz Azul will face Tigres in the other semifinal.
The game started with Pumas coming out with a very strong starting lineup as they looked for that final ticket and the match against Chivas in the semifinals in a very rainy Estadio Olimpico Universitario. The big news of course was Alfredo Talavera facing his old team for the first time, and in only his second game with Pumas. As soon as the game started, it looked like the heavy rain would affect the field. As expected Pumas was the team on the offense as Toluca sat back. Pumas didn’t have a clear chance until the 17th minute when Favio Alvarez had a shot that went wide. Pumas continued to attack, but without clear ideas and suffering under the wet conditions. Toluca almost looked to have the best chance of the game when there was a wide open header off a second play during a corner kick, but it was ruled offside. Then after a scuffle, Alvarez got a yellow card which meant that not only had Pumas not scored, but they were actually a yellow card from cancelling the yellow card tiebreaker advantage they had coming into the game. In the last minutes of the first half, Pumas looked to have a chance but the ref stopped play because of a foul on Luis Quintana that looked to have injured the player. The halftime whistle blew and Pumas actually went backward in their road to getting to the semifinals with another very poor display.
The second half started with Toluca making seven substitutions and Pumas only making two, including the injured Quintana. Pumas once again went on the offense with newly subbed forward Juan Ignacio Dinenno. Toluca had the first chance when a cross from Diego Gonzalez turned out to be a shot and forced Talavera to make a stop. After the water break, Pumas made three more substitutions. The game continued with a Toluca team sitting back and Pumas going forward, but creating nothing with a total lack of cohesion. Pumas finally had a chance in the second half when a cross by Alejandro Mayorga found Juan Pablo Vigon, who headed it and forced ex-teammate Alfredo Saldivar to make a save. Then Pumas got another yellow card for Jesus Rivas which meant that now if Pumas won by a score of 2-0, it had to go to a coin toss up to see if America or Pumas get to the semifinals. Pumas tried another chance with a shot from Brian Figueroa, but it went way wide. Later it was Vigon who got another header but it also went wide. In the last minute of the game it was Toluca who had the chance but Gonzalez shot went wide. The final whistle blew, and Pumas was lucky they had no fans in the stand to boo them.
Pumas’ tournament was totally lackluster. After an early goal against Cruz Azul, Pumas didn’t score again, and they rarely created any danger. While Pumas hosted the tournament, they barely pressured teams and without fans in the stands, the other teams rarely felt uncomfortable on the pitch. While this is a preseason tournament and this time it even has more of a down time after the teams not playing for months, all teams were on the same boat as Pumas and the team was one of the least offensive. After Cruz Azul gave them a lifeline, they faced the only team eliminated in the group and yet failed to create any danger. While the mistakes on the field are explained because of rust, the lack of strategy to create any offensive danger is more troubling. Meanwhile, Toluca bows out with a positive, but they are still the only team in the competition that didn’t score a goal and with Liga MX starting in two weeks, there is not a lot of time for them to start their offensive spark. In the end on Sunday night, both Pumas and Toluca showed why they were the two teams to go out in the group stages and how fair those results were.