Dinenno brace gives UNAM leg up in CCL semifinal

Pumas forward Juan Ignacio Dinenno celebrates after scoring his team's opener against Cruz Azul on Tuesday night. (Photo by PEDRO PARDO/AFP via Getty Images)
Pumas forward Juan Ignacio Dinenno celebrates after scoring his team's opener against Cruz Azul on Tuesday night. (Photo by PEDRO PARDO/AFP via Getty Images) /
Pumas Cementeros CCL
Cruz Azul goalie Sebastián Jurado was under constant pressure throughout the match against the Pumas who swarmed in front of his net throughout the first half. (Photo by Mauricio Salas/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

Pumas survive late Cruz Azul flurry at the CU

UNAM is one step away from their first ever Concacaf Champions League Final after defeating Cruz Azul 2-1 in the first leg of the CCL semifinals. A draw or another win at Estadio Azteca next week would do the trick for “Los Felinos.”

Andrés Lillini’s men put on a dominant first-half performance with left wing Washington Corozo and center forward Juan Ignacio Dinenno terrorizing the Cementeros back line throughout the first 45 minutes.

The two combined for the opener in minute 37. Dinenno deflected an Alan Mozo cross toward the endline and Corozo raced onto the ball to keep it inbounds before directing it into a scrum in front of the net. The ball pinballed around the six-yard box before trickling over the line. Dinenno was awarded the goal.

Just before the break, Dinenno was left alone near the penalty spot and Mozo found him with another cross which the Argentine forward easily banged home.

Cruz Azul tried to apply pressure from the outset but lacked order and the Pumas constantly found space in dangerous positions. “La Máquina” found themselves scrambling most of the first half, chasing the ball instead of closing down their opponent.

UNAM opened the second half chasing a third goal in hopes of clinching the series, but left gaps for Cruz Azul to exploit. Fortunately for the Pumas, the Cementeros were impatient and sloppy in possession.

Later, as “La Máquina” settled down a bit more and made dangerous forays into the offensive third, UNAM tightened up at the back with the central defense tandem of Arturo Ortiz and Nicolás Freire cutting out passes cleanly.

In minute 83, three Cruz Azul substitutes teamed up to produce a goal that revived the team’s spirits. On the right side near midfield, Angel Romero picked out Iván Morales on the left side of the Pumas back line. Morales got past right back Mozo with a clever stop-and-go move before cutting a pass into the path of the onrushing Christian Tabó and the plucky Uruguayan found the net just inside the far post.

Cruz Azul perked up as the Pumas desperately tried to run out the clock. Morales nearly found the equalizer when another sub – Julio César Domínguez – found him with a centering pass but “El Tanque” fired just wide of the near post.

The clock ran out moments later, setting the stage for an exciting second leg on April 12. Cruz Azul must defeat UNAM 1-0 or by two goals to advance to the Finals. A 2-1 Cementeros victory would force overtime, while any other 1-goal Cruz Azul victory would see the Pumas reach the final due to the away goals rule.

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Two MLS squads square off in the other ConcaChampions semifinal. The Seattle Sounders host New York City FC on Wednesday night with the return match in New York on April 13.