Cruz Azul surprised Pumas in their first game of the Copa GNP por Mexico, defeating the home side 4-1. Cruz Azul came in with a couple of players out of the game because of a rash of positive COVID-19 tests and yet were still able to beat Pumas. Despite having a squad that was closer to full strength and was playing at home although they had no fans, Pumas looked lost for most of the match. Cruz Azul got back from an early rough start to be the better side, as Pumas wilted and seemed to be the one making key mistakes when they had less youngsters on the field than the hampered Cruz Azul. Cruz Azul now is in first place and will face Toluca on Wednesday, while Pumas will now have a tough match against their biggest rival America on Tuesday.
On a rainy day the team started as expected, with Pumas close to a first team squad and Cruz Azul starting with a team full of backups. Pumas went on with the preferred strike duo of Carlos Gonzalez and Juan Antonio Dinenno. The game started and it didn’t take long for Pumas to score when a great cross from Alejandro Mayorga found a sliding Gonzalez, who placed it past Cruz Azul’s keeper Guillermo Allison. Gonzalez then wasted a great chance when a terrible mistake in a pass by defender Raymundo Rubio gave him the ball in the area, but his lobbed shot over Allison was blocked and would have been out if that hadn’t happened. Pumas came close again with a shot by Dinenno but a couple of minutes later, Cruz Azul would shock Pumas by tying the game. Off a corner kick, Josue Reyes got past the Pumas defense and headed it past the goalkeeper for the 1-1.
Gonzalez later had a great chance when Jeronimo Rodriguez made a good cross to him, but he headed it wide. Juan Escobar had a great chance that should have been called offside. Still, Escobar went in alone because of the linesman’s mistake but his shot went wide past Pumas’ keeper Julio Gonzalez. Then off a free kick, Josue Reyes scored again to get a 2-1 lead. Andres Iniestra did a terrible job defending him, and Reyes got wide open and got the ball past Gonzalez. Pumas kept pressuring, but they did a terrible job after that second goal and at halftime, Cruz Azul were surprisingly on top.
The second half started with Cruz Azul changing every player from the starting lineup except the goalkeper (who had already been subbed in the 30th minute) while Pumas made a lot less changes (only three). Elias Hernandez was one of the subs, and he had the first great chance of the half when his shot went barely wide of the post. On the other side, Sebastian Saucedo had a good chance but his shot went wide. Then Dinenno had a header in the area but it went wide. Cruz Azul subbed in their third goalkeeper by getting in Sebastian Jurado, the best prospect they have at goalkeeper but who surprisingly doesn’t get many opportunities with this club. Then another terrible mistake by Luis Quintanta (who came in) and literally gave a pass to Elias Hernandez, who lobbed the ball over Gonzalez for the 3-1.
Pumas tried to counter with an opportunity, but another shot from Dinenno went wide. Pumas continued to try and open up which left them vulnerable to counters, one of which was made by Hernandez and Jonathan Rodriguez, but Pumas’ defense was able to clear it. Pumas made seven more changes and basically gave up. Pumas had another chance off a corner kick but Johan Vasquez’s header went wide. In the final minute of the game, a long ball found Jonathan Rodriguez, who got past Vasquez and then keeper Gonzalez and scored the 4-1. The game ended and Cruz Azul came out with the surprising win.
Cruz Azul starts the tournament with a big boost after struggling with the COVID-19 virus and with lots of rumors that they weren’t going to be able to even field a team for the first game. Not only did they rise up to the challenge, but did it in style. Meanwhile, Pumas floundered. While it’s true that the tournament is a preseason tournament, the situation prior to the game meant that Pumas came in favored, and they did a terrible job. Fans won’t be happy to be embarrassed like that, especially against a team who they have a strong rivalry against. Also, their situation in the tournament is complicated, and they should expect to suffer against America in their next match. Thus,it’s far from a good start for them and Michel will have a tough task ahead.