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PUMAS Blog: QF 1st Leg: Cruz Azul 0 - 0 Pumas

Monday, November 24, 2008

QF 1st Leg: Cruz Azul 0 - 0 Pumas

Video here.

Despite being outplayed and looking well below par, Pumas take a slight advantage into the quarter-final second leg after Cruz Azul failed to take their chances and the first leg finished goalless. The game was also notable for the return, off the bench, of talisman Leandro Augusto (picture) after an eight-week lay-off due to a pubitis operation.

Tuca sprang a couple of surprises in the starting line-up, where there was no place for Juan Carlos Cacho, Palencia teaming up with López, and Cabrera took over the left-wing spot from Morales who has had a disappointing couple of weeks. The Cruz Azul side included ex-Pumas captain Joaquín Beltrán and ex-Pumas midfielder Jaime Lozano, while Zeballos partnered Sabah up front with Villaluz tucked in behind.

The first five or ten minutes belonged to Pumas who moved the ball around comfortably without really asking any difficult questions of the home defense, the only worry for the sky-blues an Íñiguez corner which bounced around in the area. Then Torrado started to impose himself more against the relatively inexperienced pairing of Espinoza and Chiapas and Cruz Azul had a couple of half chances with long range shots from Villaluz and Zeballos. In the meantime an excellent Villaluz cross had found Sabah unmarked deep in the Pumas area, but the striker should have done better as his effort clipped the top of the bar.

On 20 minutes Cruz Azul had strong appeals for a penalty. Sabah pushed into the area and Palacios clipped across the top of the ball and onto the number eleven's ankle. Sabah struggled on and after the ball was cleared the Azul's players' protests were waved away by referee Gómez. There have defeinitely been penalties awarded for less, and Pumas were lucky to escape this one, while Palacios needs to curb his natural instinct to dive in, particularly in the area.

Meanwhile the Pumas attack was toothless, and Ferretti replaced the lightweight Cabrera with Morales on the left. Íñiguez on the right was looking more dangerous, but Palencia and López were coming very deep and rarely had the ball facing goal. As the half drew to a close, however, the home side's domination was on the wane, and it was only an excellent save from Gutiérrez which denied Espinoza's scissors kick after good work from Íñiguez.

The beginning of the second half was relatively quiet, but Cruz Azul came out determined to make their first-half pressure count, and they showed more intensity than Pumas, particularly with Vela on for Carlos Bonet. Nevertheless Pumas started to create some danger and on the hour Espinoza raced in nicely from an Íñiguez free-kick but shot against his own player.

Vigneri came on for Sabah to add venom to the home attack, while to enormous cheerws from the away support Leandro Augusto returned to the midfield to replace Chiapas. He immediately showed what the team has been missing towards the end of the regular season with some neat touches and forward drive, but Cruz Azul did not allow him all his own way. Realising perhaps that with the away leg to come, and needing an aggregate win to progess (Pumas only need a draw due to their higher league position), the "cementeros" created a couple of chances towards the end that could have snatched the result. Riveros and Torrado had off-target attempts, but the best chance came with a minute to go. Vigneri found himself with a free header deep in the area, but Bernal produced an excellent reaction save to push the ball away.

Ferretti was rather upset with the refereeing after the game claiming Pumas should have had a penalty for a foul on íñiguez. While he may have a point, an equally clear foul on Sabah by Palacios was not given. The official was erratic in his decision making. He played the advantage rule well but a couple of his yellow cards, particularly Leandro and Juárez for Pumas and Riveros for Cruz Azul, were over officious.

Cruz Azul now travel down Insurgentes for the second leg in CU next Sunday afternoon, at the unusual time of 5pm.


Pumas: yellow: Palacios, Juárez, Leandro, Verón (after the final whistle)
Cruz Azul: yellow: Riveros, Torrado

Player Ratings
Bernal 6 - did everything right and an excellent save near the end
Juárez 6 - would be nice to see him link up more with Íñiguez but a solid performance
Palacios 5 - a rather erratic game, some good tackles but also some poor clearance headers and the "penalty" on Sabah
Verón 8 - imperious, never looked in the least flustered
Velarde 6 - is beginning to find the dynamism he had this time last year
Chiapas 5 - overshadowed a little in the middle, could never assert himself
Espinoza 6 - his best performance in this position, but Castro was on the bench and could be back soon
Íñiguez 7 - the chief danger going forward and a couple of excellent runs and telling crosses
Palencia 5 - isolated and played too deep. His first touch was not good.
López 5 - tried hard but rarely found himself in goal-scoring positions
Cabrera 4 - looked overwhelmed by the occasion
Morales 6 - added dynamism and movement when he came on
Leandro 6 - showed enough to think that he might revive Pumas's attacking fortunes if they get through next week

Tuca - 6 an interesting idea to go with Cabrera, but frankly could just have been a kick up the backside for Morales, who has been slightly off his game

Elsewhere in Mexico
Mexico advanced to the next stage of World Cup Qualifying (the six-team group) only on goal difference after a poor display in a rain-soaked San Pedro Sula saw them lose 1-0 in Honduras. The goal was an own-goal by Ricardo Osorio, but much more worrying was the level of performance, as the midfield of Sinha and Torrado were completely outplayed. Luckily for the Mexicans, Jamaica could only beat Canada 3-1 and so Mexico go through by a couple of goals. Eriksson is now under some pressure as manager, even though, as none other than Tuca Ferretti pointed out, the problems run much deeper than just the manager. Their next competitive game is away to the USA in the first of the "Hexagonal" qualifiers.

Cuauthémoc Blanco made his return to Mexican football, as he started for Santos in their first leg quarter-final against San Luis. The green and whites, the defending champions, defeated the highest-ranked team 3-1, with notable performances from Blanco and Daniel Ludueña, the Argentinian who has been missing for a lot of the season. San Luis made things difficult for themselves, conceding an early own-goal through Óscar Mascorro, Ludueña then doubling the lead after a pass from Blanco. San Luis pulled one back when Píriz converted a Braulio Luna cross to make it 2-1, but a rebound off Vuoso gave Santos a two-goal advantage going to San Luis.

I am not sure what to make of Blanco coming as a reinforcement for Santos. I was under the impression that, despite the MLS season having finished, the transfer window (which is not yet open) was there for a reason. It is also surprising that teams in Mexico do not have to register players for the tournament at the outset. And it is also interesting how much more quickly Cuauthémoc Blanco's international papers came through compared to Martín Bravo's.

The other two quarter-final ties ended in draws. Tecos, despite dominating their home game against Toluca, were unable to make the breakthrough as Hernán Cristante the "diablos" goalkeeper had an excellent game. Equally the "owls" (tecolotes) missed a hatful of opportunities, particularly in the first half, and were unable to capitalise on the early sending off of Carlos Esquivel. The worst miss was by Fredy Bareiro who hit the post with the goal gaping, but the normally reliable Ruiz also had a couple of decent opportunities to break the final 0-0 scoreline.

Meanwhile Atlante hung in against Tigres in an intense game in Monterrey achieving a 1-1 draw that leaves them favourites to progress. Despite falling behind early on to a Hugo Sánchez header the Cancún team stuck to their task and got their reward with a 75th minute equaliser from Luis Gabriel Rey.

Pumas Morelos advanced to the semi-finals of the Primera A tournament, despite losing 1-0 to Tigres B in Cuernavaca. The hard work had been done in midweek as despite falling behind early on to a committed Tigres outfit, late goals from Oscar Rojas and substitute Eduardo Herrera saw the Pumas "filial" take a goal advantage back to Morelos after their 2-1 victory. The aggregate draw sees Pumas progress as the higher-ranked team and they will now face Irapuato who squeezed past León.

Next Up
Pumas will play the second leg against Cruz Azul in CU on Sunday. The other quarter-finals will also be completed at the weekend. Pumas Morelos travel to Irapuato on Wednesday for the first leg of the Primera A semi final.


At 06:02, Anonymous heney said...

This is great! Would be wonderful to see.

At 18:12, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good luck to Pumas tomorrow.


At 03:26, Anonymous heney said...

Those muslims are a glutton for punishment.


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