Pumas got past a tough Cruz Azul despite a terrible performance from referee Mario Escobar, getting a scoreless tie that books their ticket to the CONCACAF Champions League Final. Cruz Azul battled, but wasted some chances and failed to take advantage from Pumas going down to ten players in the second half. Pumas will now wait for the winner of the Seattle Sounders vs. NYCFC Semifinal to try to keep Mexico’s streak of winning CONCACAF club titles. Pumas does not want to go backwards, as they were the last Mexican team to lose one a CONCACAF club final when they lost against Saprissa in 2005.
The first half started with Pumas coming out with their best starting lineup, including the return of goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera. Cruz Azul meanwhile had some absences like Carlos Rodriguez, who will miss the rest of the season because of an injury picked on Friday against Mazatlan. Cruz Azul went on the attack from the start, going after the one goal they needed to advance. Off of a free kick, Adrian Aldrete was able to head the ball but it went just wide. Diogo de Oliveira then made a great run and he could have created a great chance, but his cross was cleared by Cruz Azul’s defense before it got to Washington Corozo. It looked like Cruz Azul had a great chance when Ignacio Rivero got the ball in the area, but not only was his shot wide but it was also ruled to be offside. Diogo then got the ball and got into the area where he got off a great shot, but Cruz Azul’s goalkeeper Sebastian Jurado made a great save. Cruz Azul got off a great counter attack after Leonel Lopez lost the ball, and it that lead to Uriel Antuna making a great pass to Ivan Morales. Morales had a one-on-one chance, but his shot went over Talavera and the goal, going wide and wasting an incredible opportunity. After a great pass into the area, Leonel Lopez got alone and scored with a lob over Jurado, but it was called back because of offside. Replays showed that it looked like he had been, offside but VAR stood on the decision and it was disallowed. Pumas missed a great chance when after a free kick Arturo Ortiz got a wide open header, but it went wide. Cruz Azul looked to have wasted a great chance when Morales got off a shot that was deflected by Talavera and then cleared by Alan Mozo, but it was ruled to be offside. Cruz Azul continued to push up, but Pumas was able to hold of for a 0-0 tie at halftime.
The second half started with both teams hoping to score, and Pumas hoping Cruz Azul at least didn’t get that tying goal. A harsh tackle by Pablo Aguilar on Corozo looked to have injured him, but no card was given. A shot from outside the area from Lopez was then saved by Jurado. A cross into the area was lowered by Diogo, but a great diving header cleared the ball before it got to Juan Ignacio Dinenno. Cruz Azul subbed out Rafael Baca and Ivan Morales for Santiago Gimenez and Christian Tabo. Then after a foul, Cruz Azul got a great pass that allowed Santiago Gimenez to go alone into the area, but he got brought down before getting there by Arturo Ortiz, who got red carded because he was the last player. The play shouldn’t have counted as it came off a clear foul from Tabo on Diogo, but was allowed to stand. Pumas subbed out Leonel Lopez for Ricardo Galindo. Cruz Azul meanwhile kept looking for the goal, as Pumas had to sit back because of being down a player. Pumas subbed out Washington Corozo for Jeronimo Rodriguez. Then after a a great backheel from Dinenno, Diogo got the ball in the area and he got brought down by Aldrete and the ref gave a penalty kick. The ref then went to VAR and called it off, something he didn’t do in the play before for Ortiz’s red card. Cruz Azul then subbed out Julio Cesar Dominguez for Jose Martinez. After a good clearance from Rodriguez, the ball fell to Aldrete, who got off a great left footed shot that Talavera brilliantly saved. Off of the ensuing corner kick, Cruz Azul came close again when a header was just out of reach of Rivero. Cruz Azul then subbed out Angel Romero for Romulo Otero. A great four-on-three counter attack was wasted when Mozo got confused in the area, first bouncing the ball off a defender only to get the rebound and send a shot well wide. Pumas then subbed out an injured Favio Alvarez and Juan Ignacio Dinenno for Santiago Trigos and Jose Rogerio. After Pumas didn’t do a good job clearing a ball, Otero got a chance from outside the area but his shot went well wide. Cruz Azul kept pushing in the final minutes, but Pumas held on well. Rogerio got a long ball and after getting past two defenders, he got into the area but his shot hit the post. Cruz Azul tried to answer, but Santiago Gimenez’s header went well wide. Pumas held on to the win and then after the final whistle as Pumas players started to celebrate, Talavera and Coach Juan Reynoso got into a fight. Still it didn’t go past a scuffle, and Pumas was able to celebrate getting into a CONCACAF Champions League Final.
Pumas was able to overcome a controversial performance from Escobar and being down 10 players to hold on an qualify to the CONCACAF Champions League Final for the first time since 2005. Unfortunately in that year they lost to Saprissa, the last time a Mexican team failed to win the CONCACAF title. In a strange situation, Pumas started their campaign by facing Saprissa and they tied in San Jose 2-2 before winning at home by a score of 4-1. In the Quarterfinals they came back from going down in the first leg 3-0 to get a 3-0 win at home before winning the penalty shootout. Now they faced their crosstown rival Cruz Azul, and were able to get a win at home before closing out with a scoreless tie. Still, they will have a tough series where they are set to be the team that host the first leg and will travel to the United States for the second leg. Pumas will need to see the rival, but they aren’t going to be as favored as Cruz Azul would have been should they qualify. Still they have the emotional momentum in their corner as they try to make up for 2005 for the second time in this competition.