Referee Cesar Ramos wrote another chapter in his controversial career against Pumas, awarding a last minute penalty kick that gave Cruz Azul the 1-0 victory over Pumas. Ramos, who has had personal problems with Pumas keeper Alfredo Talavera before, was lambasted by Pumas players at the end who like many fans of the team felt that they were robbed. Neither Cruz Azul nor Pumas played well, and the result looked to have been moving towards a tie before the call. Pumas will now travel to face struggling Juarez, while Cruz Azul will stay in the city to host improving Monterrey on Saturday.
The first half started with Pumas starting with Favio Alvarez instead of Facundo Waller, a surprising move after the poor season Alvarez has had so far. Cruz Azul meanwhile came with their normal starting lineup, including the return of Jesus Corona at goalkeeper and Jonathan Rodriguez as forward after many didn’t start the mid week match against Mazatlan. After a couple of even minutes with not much from either side, Pumas had the first opportunity when a left footed shot by Juan Ignacio Dinneno just went inches wide from the post. Cruz Azul responded almost immediately with a shot by Luis Romo that was blocked by a Pumas defender, and it looped right into Pumas’ goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera. Cruz Azul had a great play when Ignacio Rivero got past two Pumas defenders and got off a solid shot that forced Talavera to make a great save. Pumas responded almost immediately when Dinenno got off a shot that forced Corona to make a save. Later Juan Pablo Vigon had a good chance, but his shot was easily saved by Corona in a good opportunity that Vigon wasted. Cruz Azul wasted a great opportunity after a mistake by Johan Vasquez allowed Orbelin Pineda to make a cross to Roberto Alvarado, but his shot went wide. Pumas had an opportunity when a shot by Carlos Gutierrez almost squeaked by after being deflected by Julio Cesar Dominguez, but Corona made a great save. The halftime whistle blew and to the surprise of many, the game was scoreless and Pumas had held their own against the second place team in Mexico.
The second half started with both teams trying to go for the win. After a couple of minutes, Cruz Azul had the first dangerous chance when Pol Fernandez got off a shot that Talavera stopped, but failed to hold on to. Luckily for him, the Pumas defense was right there to clear the ball out of danger. Pumas later had a good opportunity when the Cruz Azul defense failed to hold on to the ball and gifted it to Favio Alvarez, but his shot went right to Corona’s arms. Later after a good play by Fernandez, Pumas cleared the ball right to Luis Romo but his shot went wide. Pumas subbed out Carlos Gutierrez for Angel Garcia. Dinenno had a good shot off of a free kick that went past Cruz Azul’s wall, but Corona was able to hold on to the ball. Cruz Azul would sub out Pol Fernandez for Brayan Angulo. The game had been getting even with neither team taking control. Cruz Azul subbed out Roberto Alvarado and Orbelin Pineda for Yoshimar Yotun and Elias Hernandez. Later Pumas would sub out Gabriel Torres and Favio Alvarez for Juan Manuel Iturbe and Facundo Waller. A minute into the play, Waller made a run and looked to have injured himself in what was his first play of the match. Cruz Azul could have had a good opportunity when off a free kick, Juan Escobar rose to head the ball back into the area, but luckily for Pumas it fell to a defender. Cruz Azul had the best shot of the game when Yoshimar Yotun got a great left footed shot from outside the area, but Talavera was able to save the ball by deflecting it to the post. Pumas subbed out Juan Pablo Vigon for Bryan Mendoza while Cruz Azul were going to sub out Jonathan Rodriguez for Santiago Gimenez but ref Cesar Ramos was looking for a play in the VAR and called a penalty kick for Cruz Azul. The controversy of the play was around where Escobar had fallen, supposedly because of a foul by Johan Vasquez who extended his arm and hit the Cruz Azul player in the face. The penalty stopped the change, as Jonathan Rodriguez took it and scored a goal a minute from time with a right footed shot. There was no time for more and in controversial fashion, Cruz Azul got the 1-0 win.
Pumas players and fans are left with a sour taste in their mouths because of the controversial way the result slipped out of their hands. Pumas hadn’t played particularly well but had improved a lot in the match, playing evenly with a Cruz Azul team that now sits in first place with the win. With the season getting toward the end, Pumas needs to improve to get to the Repechaje, and they are in a prime time to do so with a couple of games against opponents that aren’t doing too well either. Cruz Azul meanwhile climbs to first place after losing the lead on Saturday with America’s win over Leon. Still their level of play wasn’t the best, and just last season they struggled right about the same time and it ended up dropping them to fourth place. They must work for it not to happen again, and they will have a tough hurdle at home as they face a Monterrey team that looks to be on the rise. Pumas will have to travel to Ciudad Juarez and face a team coming off a devastating week where they lost three matches, including a 6-1 loss at home against Monterrey and where coach Luis Fernando Tena might be coaching for his job.