Lady Luck shines on Cruz Azul in Las Vegas

Cruz Azul captain Jesús Corona hoists the Leagues Cup trophy at Sam Boyd Stadium on Sept. 18, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images)
Cruz Azul captain Jesús Corona hoists the Leagues Cup trophy at Sam Boyd Stadium on Sept. 18, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images) /

The Cementeros overcame the distraction of a messy coaching change to claim the Leagues Cup trophy by beating the Tigres.

On the job less than two weeks and Robert Dante Siboldi has already added a piece of hardware to the Cruz Azul trophy case. In Siboldi’s second game in charge, Cruz Azul defeated the Tigres 2-1 in Las Vegas to claim the inaugural Leagues Cup.

Yoshimar Yotún converted a penalty in minute 73 and Man of the Match Jonathan Rodríguez doubled the lead just two minutes later. Tigres’ midfielder Guido Pizarro pulled one back in minute 90, but the Cementeros held on for a victory that might go a long way in turning their season around.

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Cruz Azul fired coach Pedro Caixinha on Sept. 2, leading to front office dysfunction that saw general manager Ricardo Peláez resign in protest. Siboldi was named coach on Sept. 6, taking over a team that was on the verge of collapse after underachieving through eight games.

The Cementeros responded to their new manager’s directions against the Tigres with energy and hustle, dominating the first 15 minutes of the match at Sam Boyd Stadium. “Cabecita” Rodríguez forced Tigres goalie Nahuel Guzmán to make two fabulous saves and Cruz Azul’s Igor Lichnovsky rang the crossbar with a header off a corner kick.

The game evened out the remainder of the half and, after a brief pushing-and-shoving session caused by Rafa Carioca roughing up Orbelín Pineda, the teams went into the locker room knotted at 0-0.

Tigres get Cruz Azul on their heels

The Tigres grabbed control of the game at the start of the second half, dominating possession and pushing forward, though failing to create scoring chances. In minute 65, sub Edu Vargas was buzzing around Cruz Azul’s box, interchanging with André-Pierre Gignac. Javier Aquino fired a shot off Cementero defender Pablo Aguilar and Edu volleyed the rebound just wide.

Cruz Azul wins Leagues Cup
Jonathan “Cabecita” Rodríguez – here getting chopped down by Jesús Dueñas – was a constant menace to the Tigres defense. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

As the Tigres continued to press forward, Cruz Azul looked for the counter. “Cabecita” led once fast break in minute 70 but was chased down by Hugo Ayala. Moments later, the Cementeros earned a free kick in their offensive third. Yotún weighted a perfect chip into the box and Milton Caraglio had a bead on the ball, but Jorge Torres brought him down. Ref Marco Antonio Ortiz pointed to the spot and Yotún buried the penalty kick to provide Cruz Azul with a 1-0 lead in minute 73.

Cruz Azul wins Leagues Cup
Robert Dante Siboldi, right, took the Cruz Azul job on Sept. 6. (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images) /

Minutes later, Edu Vargas lost possession and Yotún ended up with the ball. The Peru midfielder spotted “Cabecita” cutting between the two Tigres central defenders and he filtered a perfect pass. The Uruguayan forward rounded Guzmán and slotted home with his left foot to give the Cementeros a 2-0 advantage with only 15 minutes remaining.

Tuca Ferretti’s boys didn’t give up, however. Sub Juergen Damm worked the ball deep down the right flank, drew a double-team and dropped a pass back to Carioca who made a lovely cross to Pizarro on the back side. Pizarro headed back across goal just beyond Corona’s fingertips and, suddenly, the Tigres were back in it.

Cruz Azul gritted its teeth and kept the Tigres at bay until Ortiz blew his whistle.

The Leagues Cup trophy is the second piece of hardware that Cruz Azul has earned this season. The Cementeros defeated Necaxa on July 14 to claim the SuperCopa MX trophy.