Cruz Azul showed offensive spark in easing past Atlas, while Santos laid an egg in Veracruz against their old coach.
Cruz Azul used yet another line-up as coach Pedro Caixinha continues to tinker and scheme as he tried to rescue the Cementeros season. On Friday night in Guadalajara, it worked and Cruz Azul defeated host Atlas 2-0 in a game that wasn’t as close as the scoreline.
Yoshimar Yotún – a Peru international acquired during the winter transfer window – appears to have won a spot in Caixinha’s starting line-up and he showed why, getting an assist and a goal and playing wonderful all-around game.
In minute 15, Yotún took a free kick quickly, springing defender Julio César Domínguez behind the napping Atlas defense and “Cata” slotted home for a deserved 1-0 lead (pictured at top). By that time, Cruz Azul had already hit the crossbar once (a Pablo Aguilar header, off a corner kick) and the right post (Orbelín Pineda from in close, off a beautiful pass from Roberto Alvarado).
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Less than 10 minutes into the second half, Yotún slithered around two Atlas defenders at the top of the box and right-footed a shot inside the far post to give Cruz Azul a 2-0 lead. The Cementeros played adequate defense against the slumping Zorros who have now lost 5 games in a row. Atlas only managed 3 shots on goal and only one of those forced a nice save from Corona who had a relatively easy game.
Cruz Azul opened with a 4-2-3-1 with Pineda playing the center of the middle three. The former Chivas star was a sparkplug all night, effectively dribbling and breaking down the defense, distributing the ball and directing the offense. Alvarado also had a decent game, though he lacked polish in finishing. “El Piojo” had two great scoring chances and was unable to pad the lead. Winger Elías Hernández was again missing in action, struggling to recover from his latest injury.
Veracruz 2, Santos 2
On a warm, humid night in the port city, Santos came up well short, perhaps overconfident about facing the last-place Tiburones. Santos also came into the game off a midweek tussle in the Concacaf Champions League, so fatigue certainly could have been an issue.
Veracruz played a solid game and perhaps deserved the three points, fighting hard from start-to-finish for coach Roberto Siboldi who was facing his old team for the first time since resigning as coach of the Guerreros last season.
The Tiburones got their fans pumped up early when Bryan Carrasco scored only 9 minutes into the game, only their 3rd goal of the season. Former Veracruz star Julio Furch responded for Santos 15 minutes later to equalize and then Santos went ahead with only 15 minutes remaining but failed to protect the lead.
Santos goalie Jonathan Orozco punted after gathering in a high ball off a corner kick and Veracruz was caught flat-footed. Javier Correa chased down Orozco’s pass beyond the midfield stripe and Santos had a 2-on-1. Correa laid it off to Deinner Quiñones to his left then continued toward the right post as two Veracruz players ignored him, choosing to attend to a trailer coming in near Quiñones who simply lofted a short cross to Correa who had all the time in the world to trap and shoot. Santos led 2-1 in minute 75 and appeared set to see out the win.
Diego “Puma” Chávez refused to cooperate, however, and he equalized with a nifty one-timer from just inside the box in minute 80.
Sub Cristián Menéndez muscled his way into position and flicked a square pass to Chávez who was marked closely by Hugo Nervo but “Puma” fired off his shot so quickly that neither Nervo nor Orozco had time to react and the ball was in the net.
Santos rested two defensive regulars with an eye on Tuesday Concacaf Champions League match against the New York Red Bulls, but the team played without commitment. Poor passing, lax movement and inconsistent team defense allowed Veracruz to find time on the ball and the Tiburones kept grinding.
Veracruz next plays a Copa MX quarterfinal match against second-division Juárez on Wednesday.