A painful exit for Cruz Azul
It didn’t happen on the Feast of St. Hugo, but there was indeed a miracle.
Pumas needed to win by two goals at Cruz Azul in order to advance in the Liguilla. The cementeros were unbeaten at home and had only allowed 3 goals at the Azul all season.
The Liguilla is defined by its unpredictability, but if any truism has emerged, it is the fact that the top-seed is destined to be eliminated.
It happened again last night at the Azul.
The top seeded maquina celeste sustained a season’s worth of bad luck in 90 minutes and when it was all over, it was Pumas, not Cruz Azul who advanced to the semifinals.
The first blow came only two minutes into the match when defenders allowed Pumas Martin Bravo to run right through the middle and find the back of the net in the second minute. Then they lost the midfield orchestrator, Gerardo Torrado, to injury after only half an hour. Another injury substitution soon followed as Alejandro Vela begged off. The injuries forced Cruz Azul to play defensively and out of their comfort zone, and that was compounded when defender Horacio Cervantes was sent off for a double yellow.
Cruz Azul managed to hold, though, until a handball in the box gave Pumas a penalty. The referee for the match, Marco Rodriguez “chiquidracula”, has been known to insert himself into the match narrative with his questionable decisions. But replays showed that the handball was judged correctly. Juan Carlos Cacho’s spot kick cast a shroud of silence over the stadium. Pumas were through.
Is there anything left to be said for Cruz Azul? This was the season that was supposed to put to rest all of their previous disappointments. They had been unstoppable at home. They had the lead going into the home leg. Now they have a little extra time to think about it.
The curse of the top seed lives.