Mexico: Pumas make a meal out of title favourites Cruz Azul
Top seeds Cruz Azul are out of the Mexican League play-offs following a 3-2 aggregate defeat to eighth seed UNAM Pumas. This was the biggest shock of the quarter-finals in the Torneo Apertura and next week will see CF América, Santos Laguna and Monterrey join the Pumas in the semi-finals of Mexico’s first championship of the 2010-11 season.
Having amassed 39 points in the regular season, seven more than their closest challengers Monterrey, Cruz Azul had the tag of favourites going into the knockout rounds of the current Mexican League campaign. Having won the first leg of their quarter-final 2-1 away from home against UNAM Pumas confidence was high going into Saturday’s home leg. However UNAM began the match by scoring in the very first minute. Martín Bravo’s goal silenced the home crowd and ensured that the game would continue on a nervous footing for Cruz Azul, who have gained a reputation in recent years for blowing opportunities at winning titles. This reputation was to be enhanced as Juan Carlos Cacho doubled UNAM’s second leg lead and Cruz Azul’s aggregate advantage had been overturned. Once again Cruz Azul had grasped defeat from the jaws of victory which will leave their fans believing that their club is developing some sort of curse.
UNAM Pumas’ reward for progressing to the last four is a two-legged game against Monterrey who squeezed their quarter-final game on Sunday against Pachuca CF. The two teams had drawn 1-1 in the first leg so it was pretty tight going into the second leg played in Monterrey. The home side were winning 3-1 in the 2nd leg with five minutes to go but Pachuca’s Faustino Arizala scored twice in the last five minutes to level the score at 3-3 and ensure a nervous finish to the game. However with no further scoring Monterrey go through thanks to their superior regular season record, used to determine the winners in drawn games in Mexico.
Club América, one of Mexico’s biggest clubs, have been without a domestic honour since winning the Apertura 2005 title but hopes are increasing of ending their title drought following their 4-1 win over San Luis on Saturday. Following a goalless first leg Club América made the most of home advantage in the return fixture and took a 3-0 lead into the break thanks to Vicente Sánchez, an Anibel Matellán own goal and Enrique Esqueda. San Luis pulled a goal back in the second half with Diego de la Torre reducing the arrears but América regained their three goal cushion with nine minutes to play, Vicente Vuoso’s goal putting the game to bed. Club América will play Santos Laguna in the semi-finals. With the first leg of their quarter-final fixture against Jaguares de Chiapas ending in a 1-1 draw, Santos Laguna got through to the last four stage by virtue of their second leg 1-0 win over their opponents on Sunday. A very late penalty from Juan Pablo Rodriguez, six minutes into stoppage time, gave Santos Laguna the victory.