The Cementeros were their own worst enemy and the Monarcas converted the home team’s errors into goals.
Morelia rode a Carlos Ferreira hat trick to a 3-2 win at Estadio Azteca, further dimming Cruz Azul’s fading playoff chances.
Shoddy defense by the Cementeros contributed to their first home loss of the season, though goalie Jesús Corona foiled a Morelia penalty kick in minute 89 that allowed Cruz Azul to chase a point until the final whistle.
The result momentarily lifts the Monarcas into the playoff zone with 19 points from 13 games. Cruz Azul is stuck in 13th place with 16 points from 14 games.
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Morelia struck first after an error by Corona in minute 16. The goalie’s long clearance was punted right back toward him so he drifted outside his box to head the ball out of danger. His header went right to Ferreira who volleyed a shot back across his body into the vacant net as Corona could do nothing but watch. Replays suggested Corona had time to allow the ball to bounce into the box where he could have easily grabbed it with his hands.
Jonatahan Rodríguez tied the score in minute 41 with a nicely timed run into the box to block home a diagonal cross that he slid onto. Replays indicated that “Cabecita” might have been offside, but a video review did not overturn the call and the teams went into the locker room at the half all tied at 1-1.
Morelia continues surge
The Monarcas moved back in the lead in minute 55 when Cruz Azul defender Pablo Aguilar failed to react to a move down the right flank. Miguel Sansores got to the touch line and Aguilar might have thought a double team had contained the play, but Ferreira cut in front of the motionless Aguilar right into the path of the centering pass. The Paraguayan simply pumped the ball into the net from 8 meters.
Rodríguez equalized with a fine individual effort in minute 76. “Pol” Fernández spotted “Cabecita” with his back to goal at the top of the box and sent a soft pass to him. With a man behind him, “Cabecita” allowed the ball to pass in front of him from right to left without trapping it, spun to lose his marker and stepped into a right-footed shot that zipped just inside the right post.
The tie only lasted for 5 minutes as Cruz Azul again completely botched an easy play. After a cross was headed away to the left flank, it appeared that several Cementeros defenders watched the ball instead of picking up a man. Efraín Velarde quickly lofted a cross back into the middle of the box and Ferreira had time to trap it, touch past a sliding Aguilar and blast home from inside 8 meters.
The Monarcas could have cemented the game when the late penalty was called, but Corona guessed right and Mario Osuna’s spot kick was parried aside.
Although Cruz Azul is not mathematically eliminated, the team seems destined to miss the playoffs for the eighth time in the past 11 seasons.
The two teams demonstrated solidarity with the Veracruz Tiburones players, some of who have not been paid in six months. Cruz Azul and Morelia players stood motionless for the first minute of the match, finally springing into action when ref José Alfredo Peñaloza indicated a full 60 seconds had passed. The fact that the Cementeros and Monarcas showed unity (as did the Pachuca Tuzos and Bravos of FC Juárez in a game that started after the Cruz Azul-Morelia match) makes the Tigres’ poor sportsmanship Friday night look even more egregious.