Pumas, Cementeros come up short in the clutch

Pumas right back Alan Mozo had a good game but it wasn't enough. (Photo by Mauricio Salas/Jam Media/Getty Images)
Pumas right back Alan Mozo had a good game but it wasn't enough. (Photo by Mauricio Salas/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

The two Mexico City teams might be sitting at home watching the playoffs after Sunday’s results.

It looks virtually certain that América will be the only Mexico City team in the Liga MX playoffs after both UNAM and Cruz Azul failed to win Sunday. The Pumas now no longer control their own destiny while Cruz Azul’s loss to Santos officially blocked them from the postseason.

UNAM suffered hard luck against visiting FC Juárez and had to settle for a 1-1 draw vs the 16th-place Bravos. The Pumas twice hit a post, missed a second-half penalty kick and lost leading scorer Carlos González to a shoulder injury before the hour mark.

Pumas, Cementeros choke
Carlos Gonzalez of Pumas is attended to after falling heavily on his right shoulder. (Photo by CLAUDIO CRUZ/AFP via Getty Images) /

González had already scored his 7th goal (in minute 33) after a nifty build-up generated by right back Alan Mozo who carried into the final third, cut onto his left foot and lofted a perfect pass over the defense and in front of goalie Iván Vázquez. Felipe Mora scurried underneath it and headed back toward the penalty spot and Carlos González reacted first, scampering to the ball and thumping it into the net.

Early on, the Pumas might have gotten a break when a hand ball inside the box was determined accidental even after a video review. Had a penalty been awarded then (in minute 6), it would have been hard to argue that it was unwarranted.

In minute 57, González chased a loose ball into the box and drew a penalty, but in embellishing the foul by Vázquez, he appeared to break his collarbone when he crashed to the turf … a self-inflicted wound. The Pumas’ star striker was taken directly to the locker room and adding insult to injury, Vázquez palmed aside Víctor Malcorra’s spot kick.

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Bravos midfielder José Joaquín Esquivel then made the Pumas pay for failing to convert their opportunities. Esquivel – a member of Mexico’s Under-22 team – went on a slaloming run through midfield before blasting a right-footer that bulged the back of the net before the diving Alfredo Saldívar had hit the ground.

The game remained tied despite the best efforts of late Pumas subs Pablo Barrera and Juan Iturbe. Overall, UNAM fired 23 shots, six of which were on target, but Vázquez patrolled his area skillfully.

During the 6 minutes of added time, the Pumas hit the crossbar twice, forced a fabulous save from Vázquez, while the Bravos hit the right post on a delicious 2-on-1 break that came out of nowhere. A real barn-burner of a finish.

The result was UNAM’s second consecutive 1-1 draw, the first coming at 18th-place Puebla last weekend. The Pumas are now 1 point out of the playoffs and they primarily have themselves to blame. Miguel González’s side controlled their own destiny, but failed to close the deal.

Now UNAM must win at Pachuca on the final matchday (Nov. 23) AND both Monterrey and Tijuana must lose.

Cruz Azul crashes out

Even before kickoff in Torreón, Cruz Azul’s chances of making the playoffs were slim and none. Now they are none.

Pumas, Cementeros choke
Cruz Azul players trudge off the Estadio Corona pitch after Sunday’s loss to Santos. (Photo by Manuel Guadarrama/Getty Images) /

League-leading Santos made short work of the Cementeros, ending their season with a 3-1 spanking. Gerardo Arteaga and Brian Lozano scored within a minute of each other and sub Raúl Octavio Rivero netted the clincher in minute 87.

The win clinches the No. 1 playoff seeding for Santos (36 points) as they now have 5-point lead over second place Necaxa with only one game to play. Cruz Azul misses the playoffs for the first time in three seasons, a dramatic fall from a year ago when they entered the playoffs with the top seed. Cementeros fans will have to wait another season to see their team end their 22-year league title drought.