In an ending that can only be described as miraculous, Club América scored twice, once in the 89th minute and again in the 93rd, to level the aggregate vs. Cruz Azul, in the Liga MX Final. And after a half hour of scoreless extra time, the boys in yellow did not miss from the spot, while their counterparts in blue failed to convert their first two kicks. With their 11th league title, Club América joins Guadalajara as the most decorated teams in Liga MX history.
And Cruz Azul, so agonizingly close, will have to settle for second place.
The best way to describe what happened in at a rainy Azteca last night is to channel the great Jack Buck. "I cannot believe what I just saw."
Already forced to chase the game down 1-0 on aggregate, Club América went down a man when Referee Paul Delgadillo judged that DM Jesús Molina was the last man when he rugby tackled Pablo Barrera on a break-away (he was) in the 14th. It was a letter of the law decision, and the red came out with out any regard to the spirit of the law. Despite having the manned advantage, Cruz Azul was content to let América control possession while they would take their chances with the counter. It didn't take long for Cruz Azul to double their lead, as Teofilo Gutierrez broke down the right flank and sent one past Moises Muñoz. Cruz was up 2-0. América was down to 10.
Cruz Azul coach, Memo Vazquez decided after the goal that he would continue to take his chances on the counter by replacing a DM with a forward. With America down to 10 and really chasing the game, the jailbreaks would come early and often.
He was right. But I expect he was thinking that Cruz Azul would convert at least one of their many chances.
Pablo Barrera, who looks to have finally recovered from his ACL injury from last year had two chances within minutes of each other only to be turned away by Muñoz. Chaco Giménez had another chance that ricocheted off the post, off Teofilo Gutierrez, and off the post again.
That was turning point.
Vazquez took Barrera off for defensive reinforcements in the 85th. 5 minutes to hang on. 5 minutes to win their first title in the 21st century. 5 minutes to shed the "subcampeonisimo" monniker that had been cruelly, but justly hung around their necks.
Corner kicks - the 25 yard hail mary. América sent everyone on the corner kick. Even their team president, Ricardo Peláez, was down on the pitch. He was the world's most expensive ball shagger and got the ball quickly to the spot. Colombian giant, and América defender Aquivaldo Mosqueda (who years earlier had scored a late winner off a corner to get Pachuca into a final over Chivas) gave Americanismo hope when his header found the net.
93rd Minute. The last minute of stoppage time. Another corner and América's last chance. Goal Keeper Moises Muñoz was in the box waiting with the rest of his teammates. He launched for the ball and connected. It took a deflection off a defender and in. The aggregate was tied 2-2.
"I cannot believe what I just saw."
The 30 minute extra time period was nothing more than a cruel half hour of putting off the inevitable. Even Cruz Azul fans had to suspect that if their only chance to win was to get one in overtime. Their body language, though, said they were already defeated/ It was no surprise that they never even came close. On to penalties they went.
Javier Orozco, the forward who came on in the first half when Vazquez was looking to ice the game, never threatened the goal during the match. He was the first Cruz Azul player to miss. His penalty up the pipe caught Muñoz on the foot.
Alejandro Castro, the cementero whose deflection sent Muñoz' header past his own keeper a half hour earlier, picked the wrong John Terry impersonation at the wrong time.
América did not miss. In all the finals América has finished at the Azteca, the boys in yellow were the ones to lift the trophy. They did again last night. Incredulous as it seems.
One has to give credit to América for never wavering. There have been many a Mexican club team that have imploded in a furious rage of ardido. I was fully expecting América to follow suit. All the ingredients were there: a temperamental coach, a team thinking they were wronged by the ref, and a rival about to be crowned on their home field. América kept their cool, though.
It is the morning after and I still cannot believe what I just saw.