Santos extended Cruz Azul’s nightmare start to the Clausura by beating the Cementeros in Estadio Azteca.
Santos was without star player Julio Furch and was winless on the road this season. Fortunately, the club from Torreón was playing against slumping Cruz Azul and the Guerreros overcame an early deficit to climb back into the Liguilla conversation.
Cruz Azul, on the other hand, is in big trouble. It’s too early to write them off, but I wouldn’t buy playoff tickets yet.
Cementeros coach Pedro Caixinha tweaked his starting line-up in hopes of sparking his stumbling team. Yoshimar Yotun started in midfield in place of the injured Elías Hernández and Orbelín Pineda opened up playing wide left. The strategy seemed to work early and Cruz Azul was getting forward.
Finally, in minute 24, Milton Caraglio put Cruz Azul on the board. His goal marked the first goal for a Cruz Azul forward this season. Caraglio and Martín Cauteruccio had taken turns squandering opportunities through the first 6 weeks.
The celebration was short-lived, however. Santos took a corner kick and held possession thanks to the hustling Ulises Rivas. After goalie Jeséus Corona punched out the initial cross, Santos re-centered and the unmarked Rivas knocked a header off the far post. The ball bounded across the goal mouth and Rivas was first to it along the touch line. He turned and surveyed the field before sending a pass to Hugo Nervo and the big defender blasted home from close range.
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Just two minutes after halftime, the normally reliable Pablo Aguilar muffed a clearance effort and the ball trickled back toward his own goal, right into the path of Santos winger Ayrton Preciado. The Brazilian had no problem knocking it past the helpless Corona and Cruz Azul was stunned by the turn of events.
It took some time for the Cementeros to recover, but soon enough they were sustaining possession in attacking positions, but the Santos defense remained disciplined. Cruz Azul soon resorted to long-distance shots but they rarely tested goalie Jonathan Orozco.
Too often, the Cementeros opted for long crosses and centering passes that the tall, sturdy central defense tandem of Doria and Nervo handled with considerable ease.
Caixinha put in his first sub just before the hour mark, but Misael Domínguez was not the answer. He spent too much time trying to force passes through windows that were not open and the little midfielder did not impact the game.
Cauteruccio came on in minute 72 but he provided nothing. When Caraglio came off for young striker Martin Zúñiga in minute 81, the Cementero fans booed Caraglio even though he scored the Cruz Azul goal.
Cruz Azul enjoyed 60% possession and got off 16 shots, but Orozco was only called upon to make 2 saves … and neither was difficult. The Cementeros have just 5 goals through 7 matches and their offense seems to break down too easily. They lack imagination in midfield and clever midfielder Roberto Alvarado is way off form.
The Cruz Azul defense has also failed to live up to the standard set last season when they led Liga MX, allowing only 13 goals in 17 regular season games. Last season, the Cementeros were 8-1-0 at Estadio Azteca during the regular season, and lost 3 games in total. This season, Cruz Azul is 1-0-2 at home and a disappointing 2-2-3.
Santos climbed into 6th place with the win while Cruz Azul – the Apertura 2018 regular-season champion – finds itself in 12th place.