Cruz Azul in crisis: Second division Oaxaca stuns holders

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - FEBRUARY 19: Elias Hernandez of Cruz Azul lament during a match between Cruz Azul and Alebrijes as part of the Copa MX Clausura 2019 at Azteca Stadium on February 19, 2019 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Mauricio Salas/Jam Media/Getty Images)
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - FEBRUARY 19: Elias Hernandez of Cruz Azul lament during a match between Cruz Azul and Alebrijes as part of the Copa MX Clausura 2019 at Azteca Stadium on February 19, 2019 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Mauricio Salas/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

Cruz Azul will not be able to defend its Copa MX crown as Oaxaca handed the Cementeros another loss at Estadio Azteca and the pressure on coach Pedro Caixinha has multiplied.

The second division Alebrijes of Oaxaca claimed first place in Group 5, leapfrogging over both León and Cruz Azul to move on to the Round of 16. Oaxaca is one of four Ascenso MX teams that have qualified for the knockout stages of the Cup.

In other Tuesday night Copa MX action, seven teams clinched spots in the knockout stage, including Tijuana, Veracruz and reigning Ascenso MX champions Atlético San Luis. That leaves five spots open pending Wednesday night’s results.

Cementeros shocked by Alebrijes

The power outage at Cruz Azul continues as second division Oaxaca knocked the Copa MX crown off the Cementeros’ head with a gritty 1-0 win at Estadio Azteca. The Cementeros needed to win at home to advance and a tie might even have served them, but they did not rise to the occasion.

The few fans that bothered to attend the match booed the home team off the pitch at the end of the game. There were also audible chants of “Fuera Caixinha” ricocheting off the empty seats. El Universal Deportes reported that management is already kicking the tires on Rafael Puente, Jr., who was just fired by Querétaro on Sunday.

Cruz Azul dominated possession and attacked continually, but their ineptitude up front carried the day. The Cementeros rained centering passes into the Oaxaca box, but very few found Cruz Azul heads. The crosses tended to be low and inaccurate.

Oaxaca goalie Luis Robles was rarely tested, but when he was needed, he came up big, particularly with a full-stretch save off an Adrián Aldrete free kick in minute 32.

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Caixinha inserted Martín Cauteruccio back into the starting line-up and his performance was abysmal. When he was not spraying shots over the end line, he was getting dispossessed. His lack of movement made him easy to mark and his goal-scoring drought stretches back into last season.

Renato Roman scored the winner in minute 68 when Cruz Azul was caught napping on a throw-in deep in Oacaxa’s end. Omar Islas beat the offside trap at the midfield stripe and chased down a lead pass deep down the left flank, cut back and found Roman trailing. Roman trapped the floated pass unmolested and swung his left foot through the ball, beating Cruz Azul keeper Guillermo Allison at the back side. It was an awful defensive mistake and the Alebrijes made Cruz Azul pay.

Roman had almost scored in the first half when he let fly from about 35 meters. His dipping shot was palmed over the crossbar by Allison.

Oaxaca joins Juárez (Group 2) as the only Ascenso MX teams to win their group, but the Alebrijes achievement is more notable because of the teams they faced. León (still with a chance to qualify) is in third place in Liga MX and Cruz Azul was a finalist in the Liguilla last season.

Tijuana, Veracruz win groups

Tijuana moved past Pachuca to nab first place in Group 1 with a 2-1 win at home over the Tuzos. The Xolos went up 1-0 on a penalty kick by Gustavo Bou in minute 3, but Pachuca tied it in minute 45, also on a PK.

Diego Braghieri knocked home the winner off a free kick. Tuzos goalie Leonel Moreira saved a dangerous free kick by Xolos second-half sub Ariel Nahuelpan but Miller Bolaños got to the rebound first and recentered across the face of goal to Braghieri who nodded home before the Tuzos defense could react.

Tijuana has 7 points to win the group, but Pachuca’s 6 points assures them a spot in the knockout stage.

Veracruz has 0 goals in Liga MX play, but they claimed first place in Group 7 with a 2-0 win over second division Zacatecas who also qualifies for the Round of 16. Both teams finished with 7 points from 4 games, but the Tiburones have a better goal differential (+2). Bryan Carrasco and Joe Abrigo scored for Veracruz.

Atlético San Luis knocked out Necaxa with an impressive 3-2 road win over the Rayos. If Necaxa had won, they would have qualified for the Round of 16. But Diego Pineda earned the victory for the Tuneros with a nifty goal in minute 79.

The Tuneros went up 2-0 from a Pineda goal in minute 7 and another from Leandro Torres in minute 37. Necaxa coach inserted scoring machine Brian Fernández to open the second half and the league’s No. 2 scorer responded with a brace (62’ and 69’) to knot things up.

In Group 6 action, already qualified Morelia defeated the Correcaminos of Tamaulipas 1-0 which clinches the top seed for the Monarcas in the knockout stage.

The final five spots in the Round of 16 will be determined following the four final group stage matches Wednesday night: Leones Negros at Pumas; Querétaro at Dorados of Sinaloa; Guadalajara at Cafetaleros of Tapachula; and, Puebla at Juárez.