The high-flying Cementeros routed Necaxa 4-0 to spoil the Rayos’ attempt at a repeat
Coach Pedro Caixinha’s crew made a statement Sunday afternoon in Carson, California, loudly declaring their intention to contend for the Liga MX title. Cruz Azul is determined to put an end to 22 years of misery and win the club’s first league championship since Invierno 1997.
Milton Caraglio, Elías Hernández, Edgar Méndez and newcomer Juan Escobar found the net in Cruz Azul’s 4-0 win over Necaxa, but the Cementeros created scoring chances virtually from start to finish.
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Midfielder Yoshimar Yotún (Peru) returned from the Copa América in crack condition and he fed Caraglio for the opener in minute 20. Just minutes after forcing a great save from Necaxa goalie Hugo González, Yotún zipped a low cross into the center of the box and Caraglio – Cruz Azul’s top scorer last season with 12 – snapped a header past González from 14 meters.
Just before halftime, Elías made it 2-0 after Méndez pounced on a bad back pass to start a 2-on-1 fast break. Unfortunately for Necaxa, the “1” was keeper González and he was about 40 meters off his line. Méndez rounded Hugo and Elías swooped in to collect the ball and tap ahead before firing home into the empty net from 20 meters.
Méndez got on the scoresheet just after halftime when a block-volleyed home with the outside of his right foot. Left back Adrián Aldrete had gotten deep down the flank and he buzzed a long cross to the back side just as the Spanish right winger cut in sharply and beat his defender to the ball. González had no chance.
Cruz Azul plays the full 90 minutes
Just 5 minutes before the final whistle, right back Juan Escobar scored in his first appearance for Cruz Azul since joining from Cerro Porteño over the summer. Substitute Jona Rodríguez rounded his marker and escaped down the right side. When Jona got to the touch line he cut back a pass right onto the foot of the onrushing Escobar who rammed it home.
Caixinha will be content with his team’s performance (53% possession, 87% passing rate, 15 shots – 6 on goal). At the other end, goalie Jesús Corona was only called on to make 1 save.
Cruz Azul fans, no doubt, were thrilled to see Elías patrolling the offensive third again. The shifty winger missed the second half of the Clausura 2019 season with a knee injury, but his performance Sunday suggests he is back.
Escobar’s star performance at right back suggests his acquisition will resolve the problems the Cementeros have had at this position the past two seasons.
As for the Rayos, coach Memo Vázquez did not have his full roster at his disposal. Necaxa was active in the offseason and most of the new acquisitions are not fully integrated into the squad yet. Academy players Juan Fernando Plascencia and Fernando Ilescas saw action, and left wing Kevin Mercado showed hints that he might be a reliable attacker, but the Rayos will miss Brian Fernández (sold to MLS team San José).
Adios to the SuperCopa
Since the Copa MX will switch back to being a once-a-year tournament, the SuperCopa MX will no longer be held. The tournament was created in 2014 and it pitted the two Copa MX winners from the previous year.
Morelia won the inaugural SuperCopa in 2014 against the Tigres on a 4-3 aggregate scoreline. That Cup was staged as a two-legged affair (4-1 and 1-3). Since then, the SuperCopa has been a single match held at a neutral stadium.
Puebla won the 2015 SuperCopa, beating Morelia 1-0, and the Chivas defeated Veracruz 2-0 to win in 2016. Querétaro beat América 2-0 to win in 2017 and Necaxa edged Monterrey 1-0 to claim the 2018 Super Copa MX.