After an offensively anemic performance for the most part by León last night, they still had the opportunity to score twice and claim all three points from Cruz Azul, despite going down 0-1 with ten minutes plus stoppage time to go in the match. Both teams were without one of their key offensive pieces due to leg injuries (Luis Montes for León, Jonathan Rodríguez for Cruz Azul), yet it seemed to take a much bigger toll on the home side.
Ambriz’s squad had a promising start to the match, when in the 8th minute, David Ramírez sent a perfect through ball into the box that left Fernando Navarro wide open on the left side with a 1-on-1 with Corona. Navarro was unable to even place his shot on goal, sending it inexcusably wide right for a Cruz Azul goal kick. After that, both teams failed to create any real danger upon their rivals’ goal, with most plays ending in attempts either blocked by defenders or far off-target, despite León clearly dominating ball possession. It was clear La Fiera lacked Montes’ playmaking abilities to help create any sort of element of surprise. Their attacks ended up being predictable and easily handled by Cruz Azul’s defense. And La Máquina on the other hand, had deeper and deeper approaches as the match progressed.
After struggling to keep their opponents off the board in the early stages of matches due to defenders’ mishaps, León finally got a solid defensive performance which kept Cruz Azul scoreless through 80 minutes, as well as preventing them from any threatening play creation. That held true until the 81st minute, when Orbelín Pineda left a wide open Luis Romo just outside the penalty box, who then placed an impeccable through ball to Bryan Angulo. The striker got Cota out of the way with one move and just kissed the ball home for the 0-1 lead.
And then came León’s key blemishes. In the 84th minute, Ángel Mena received the ball in the penalty box’s half-circle, left for him to strike on goal with a single touch. Instead, he made an attempt to control the ball, allowing defenders to get in position, and by the time he got the shot off, it was immediately deflected, rolling straight to Cota’s diving, waiting body. Finally, in stoppage time, a León corner kick was headed by Yairo Moreno straight in the direction of Joel Campbell’s head who was halfway between the six-yard box and goal line (can’t be any closer than that). He was unable to get the proper contact and sent the ball sailing way over the crossbar. To add insult to injury, Mena (who ended up being called offside), sent a beautiful cross into Jesús Godínez who sent a wide-open header straight to the post in the 89th minute. In other words, the ball had no plans on going in yesterday for León, no matter what they tried. As a professional, it’s unacceptable to not have the ability to get a single wide-open attempt on goal even to at least give yourself a chance.
Despite a great win for Cruz Azul which solidifies their league-leader status and allows them to stay two points in front of América, there’s no doubt León could’ve done more and were once again let down by their lack of aim and effectiveness up top. There was no blaming the defense in this one, as they were up for the challenge, cancelling out Cruz Azul’s attackers for most of the match. Yesterday rests solely upon León’s lack of a killer up front who dared to put the ball away. In any other match, they would’ve capitalized on those chances and claimed the match. Instead, not only have they now lost two consecutive home matches, but they remain stuck in 15th overall and have now lost more games than they have in any of their previous three complete seasons, and we aren’t even halfway through this one. León have a lot of aim and offensive efficiency issues to work on if they wish to repeat as champs this season. In the meantime, they aren’t going anywhere, as they can’t win without scoring a goal.