Channel surfing with Gallos, Cementeros & El Tri

Queretaro overcame a 1-0 deficit late to move into first place momentarily. (Photo by Angel Castillo/Jam Media/Getty Images)
Queretaro overcame a 1-0 deficit late to move into first place momentarily. (Photo by Angel Castillo/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

Three games competed for my attention on Saturday afternoon … but I was able to catch the key moments of each.

I sat down just after 5 o’clock as the Cruz Azul-Juárez game kicked off in Estadio Azteca, remote control clutched in my right hand. The Querétaro Gallos Blancos-Pachuca Tuzos game was one button away and kick off for the Mexico-Uruguay game for third place in the Pan Am Games was 30 minutes away.

The Cementeros seemed to be in complete control, but did not seem to have a clue how to attack the Juárez defense. Milton Caraglio was the lone striker, playing between the two central defenders, yet for some reason, Cruz Azul thought it was a good idea to try crossing into the guy with two defenders draped on his back. It got boring.

Over on Fox Sports 2, the Gallos Blancos were pressing forward, probing, testing the tense Pachuca defense. The winless Tuzos were playing like a team that knew its season was almost over just four weeks into the season.

Back to Estadio Azteca just in time to see a Juárez free kick taken by Angelo Sagal. Whoa! Did I see that right!?! That his both posts, but stayed out. A quick look at the replay revealed that, indeed, Sagal’s shot was ticketed for the upper left corner, but Cruz Azul keeper Jesús Corona got to the ball, deflecting right off the post and it ricocheted across to the other post and back into the middle of the box where a Cementeros defender cleared it. Wow!

Gallos, Cementeros and El Tri
Edwin Cardona, left, grabs Querétaro’s Alonso Escoboza moments before sending him to the turf with a shot to the mouth. Cardona was ejected for the punch. (Photo by Angel Castillo/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

Over in Estadio Corregidora, Pachuca started to move forward a bit, looking for spaces … but then Edwin Cardona lost his head. The Colombian playmaker was challenged on the dribble and was dispossessed, grabbing little Jesús Escoboza and smacking him to the ground. Ref Jorge Pérez only saw enough to show Cardona a yellow, but VAR quickly buzzed down asking him to look at the replay. Yep. A left cross to the jaw. Red for Cardona in minute 17 and Pachuca was a man down. Yikes!

A glance at Estadio Azteca and Cruz Azul got two quick shots off, but neither was on target. The Cementeros were more patient on the ball, but no closer to figuring out where the holes were in the Bravos defense. “Pol” Fernández then slid a shot wide … Adrián Aldrete fired high. Better structure from Cruz Azul, but not much efficiency.

Let’s check back in to the Querétaro match … what? 1-0 Pachuca. In minute 35.

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Rubens Sambueza had lofted a harmless cross from straight on that Gallos Blancos goalie Gil Alcalá could easily have handled, but Jair Pereira leaped in front of him and popped a weak header into the air. Pachuca’s Jonathan Copete had time to gauge his shot with his back to goal, and pow! a clean bicycle kick that appeared to deflect off teammate Franco Jara then went right through the legs of Pereira and Alcalá who was screened by his own defender.

Well, now. Pachuca was just going to park the 10-man bus the rest of the game and try to survive. It was not going to be easy and Querétaro enjoyed 71% possession on the game and would spend the next 65 minutes sending dangerous crosses into the box. Could the Tuzos stand up to the withering pressure?

And in Lima …

By now the Mexico-Uruguay game had started and I began to take greater interest in that match. El Tri was likely to be exhausted after playing an overtime match against Honduras in Wednesday’s semifinal (before falling in penalty kicks).

Gallos, Cementeros and El Tri
Francisco Venegas, left, congratulates Paolo Yrizar after Yrizar scored for El Tri in minute 6. (Photo by LUKA GONZALES/AFP/Getty Images) /

Jaime Lozano’s team moved the ball well, and stood up to Uruguay’s physicality. Francisco Venegas and Uriel Cardona were coordinating well in midfield, but I wondered how El Tri would do without suspended striker Jose de Jesús Godínez.

Just like that, and Mexico had the lead. Cardona had possession at the left near midfield and he chipped ahead with Paolo Yrizar chasing. The Uruugayan defender got spun around and lost a balance for a second, just enough for Yrizar to get to the ball first and fire home across the goalie and inside the far post. 1-0 Mexico in minute 6.

El Tri scored early against Honduras before fading down the stretch and giving upthe equalizer in minute 77. It won’t happen this time, right?

By now, both Liga MX games were at halftime and my focus was on El Tri. Diego Abella was shifty and elusive up front, while Marcel Ruiz was fighting hard, but his decision-making was lacking. Twice on breaks, he opted for a shot with open teammates to choose from and both times the shots were easy ones for the goalie. Rats!

Luis Malagón was in goal for “Pepe” Hernández and I had not seen Malagón play for Morelia yet, so I was not sure how that would work. But Johan Vázquez was standing tall in central defense and captain Ismael Govea looked strong at right back. Joaquín Esquivel was shielding the back line as holding midfielder and Eric Cantú was playing his wingman.

Uruguay’s Leo Fernández (Venegas’ teammate with the Tigres) was causing trouble through the middle, showing incisive passing skills, often looking for dangerman Darwin Núñez who showed tremendous skill on several occasions.

Halftime arrived in Lima with no change in score and both Liga MX games had resumed.

Cruz Azul keeper Jesús Corona gets his left mitt on a Juárez shot in the second half. Corona had six saves during the match. (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
Cruz Azul keeper Jesús Corona gets his left mitt on a Juárez shot in the second half. Corona had six saves during the match. (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images) /

La Máquina Azul

Cementeros goalie Corona stretched to make a save off a long shot, then “Pol” fired high again, wasting a Cruz Azul break. A nice move, but you gotta put that on target. Minutes later, sub Edgar Méndez collected a rebound and ripped a low shot that Juárez keeper Iván Vázquez smothered.

Just minutes after that, “Pol” fed Caraglio inside the box and the tall Argentine turned and fired a shot that was stuffed by his marker. Only thing is, the ball trickled to the right and Roberto Alvarado was the first to react. “El Piojo” gathered the ball up, dribbled past a helpless Vázquez as three Juárez defenders watched. 1-0 Cementeros in minute 64.

Ten minutes later, Cruz Azul took its 7 th corner kick of the match. Elías Hernández zipped a fine cross to the near post just as Pablo Aguilar raced in, a step in front of his marker. The defender powered home and it was 2-0 Cementeros with 16 minutes remaining. Good as over.

Gallos, Gallos

Gallos, Cementeros and El Tri
Roberto Alvarado celebrates after scoring Cruz Azul’s opening goal against Juárez. (Photo by ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images) /

Back in Querétaro, Pachuca was camping inside their own box, as the Gallos Blancos rained crosses in from both flanks. The Tuzos were under siege and Querétaro kept pressing forward.

In minute 76, Gallos Blancos skipper found room down the right flank and he lifted a cross into the crowded box where Alexis Pérez rose above the scrum and thumped a header inside the far post. Estadio Corregidora erupted. Score tied with plenty of time to find the winner.

But Gallos fans would have to wait … and wait. The Tuzos used every time-wasting trick in the book trying to run out the clock. Everything but dig a trench in front of their goal.

Deep into added time, Querétaro filtered a corner kick out to Jaime Valencia who chipped a cross to the back side where Clifford Aboagye outmuscled two Tuzos and the ball bounded back to the near side where Jordi Cortizo chased it down and pushed it to Escoboza, the man who had taken the corner kick. Escoboza – near the touch line – fired a low cross that was lightly deflected, sending is squibbing across the goal mouth behind three Pachuca defenders. A lunging Rodrigo Rey could not get a hand on it and the ball rolled to the back post where Pereira simply guided it into the empty net. Querétaro’s game-winner had come in minute 90+4.

Pachuca coach Martin Palermo could only watch as his team came up short after playing 73 minutes with 10 men. (Photo by Angel Castillo/Jam Media/Getty Images)
Pachuca coach Martin Palermo could only watch as his team came up short after playing 73 minutes with 10 men. (Photo by Angel Castillo/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

Whew! What a win for the Gallos … but there was unfinished business in Lima.

Chasing a medal

El Tri was visibly exhausted as they chased Uruguay, a bit on their heels and too fatigued to get forward with any sustained possession. Núñez zipped a free kick over the crossbar for Uruguay and Mexico fans exhaled. Coach Lozano made some changes to get some fresh legs in there – Mauro Lainez, Oscar Macías and Pablo López subbed in during the final 15 minutes and gave good chase.

Then twice in quick succession, Uruguay had decent reasons to complain about non-calls. Ref Fernando Echenique waved off a hand ball in the box (the ball took a deflection first and thus deemed unintentional). Then Yrizar seemed to run over Leandro Suhr as they chased a loose ball, but the ref wagged a finger, indicating Suhr had gone down too easily.

With the fresh bodies in there, Mexico was able to push forward a few times and late on, Lainez juked a defender and let fly from a sharp angle. His shot beat the goalie but rolled just wide of the far post. The clock ticked past 90 … seconds away from a bronze medal … and the final whistle blew.

Wow! That was intense … Now I had time to relax a bit. By now the Tigres-Necaxa game had started, right? Oh yes … 22 minutes in … and Gignac already has a hat trick.