Yesterday night, Cruz Azul’s deficiencies continued to show as they were unable to recover from a 0-2 hole they dug for themselves within the first half hour of their Repechaje home match. With Rogelio Funes Mori capitalizing on a hand-ball penalty call and Maxi Meza firing a beautiful turnaround shot into the top left corner, Rayados proved they were on a mission to keep their season alive past this weekend.
However, a botched penalty call on a supposed Vegas shove gave La Máquina new life, as Yotún executed perfectly with a solid left-footer. And despite Cruz Azul going on to create multiple scoring opportunities after that, their offensive ineffectiveness haunted them for the rest of the match, resulting in their ultimate playoff elimination. Rayados, on the other hand, took advantage of a lucky bounce that landed right in Funes Mori’s boots inside the penalty box to give them back a two-goal lead. And then, with five minutes left, Dutch star Vincent Janssen put the final nail in the coffin with a perfect header past a diving Corona for the definitive 4-1 score.
Despite having more ball possession and nearly double the total shots Rayados had (17 to 9), Cruz Azul were unable to create true danger. Most of their shots were either off-target or hit so lightly to where Andrada could easily reach to alter the direction of the ball. And that was their main problem all season; they had no true offensive difference-maker. Players like Pineda, Rivero, ‘Cabecita’ Rodríguez, and even Santi Giménez are simply unable to create on their own, which is what Cruz Azul desperately need. The only other good play that ended in a well-hit shot into Andrada’s goal resulted in an offside by Angulo. It just wasn’t happening last night for Reynoso and company.
When competing with a team like Monterrey, who have arguably the most potent offensive team in the league, you have to be your sharpest when finishing plays. If you let as many chances slip by as Cruz Azul did yesterday, you’ll more than likely pay. So, while they had no answer on the defensive end either, their offense really let them down, as they had multiple chances to tie the match up at 2.
And, what could’ve been better for Rayados? Their all-time leading goal scorer netted the ball twice, Maxi Meza scored a beauty, and their most dangerous striker (who came off the bench in the 77th minute) scored as well, proving he doesn’t shy away from the big moment. Not to mention, they eliminated Cruz Azul in the Azteca by a 4-1 scoreline for the second time in just two months, as they did it back in mid-September to move on to the CCL final.
You can’t get carried away if you’re Aguirre and company, as it’s just one Repechaje game that you won against a very dim version of the Cruz Azul we’ve known over the past years. But it is a statement game in the sense that they can go anywhere and not only win, but win big if they really want it. No one should be hoping to get Rayados at this point, as they proved they can go all the way despite owning a low seed like they have now (when they won the Apertura 2019 title). Up next for Monterrey, a competitive, yet unproven Atlas team (as well as weakest out of the top 4). If it all plays out the way it should, Rayados should be in the SF a week from today.