Pumas blank Cruz Azul to reach first CCL final

Pumas players celebrate after advancing to the ConcaChampions finals for the first time. (Photo by Mauricio Salas/Jam Media/Getty Images)
Pumas players celebrate after advancing to the ConcaChampions finals for the first time. (Photo by Mauricio Salas/Jam Media/Getty Images) /
Pumas dump Cruz Azul CCL
Cruz Azul players lament their failure to score against the Pumas in the CCL semifinals. (Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images) /

Cruz Azul was its own worst enemy Tuesday night, spraying passes and misfiring on shots to crash out of the Concacaf Champions League at the semifinal stage. The 0-0 result was particularly galling since UNAM went down to 10 men in minute 63.

The Pumas move on to their first-ever CCL final after the scoreless draw at Estadio Azteca, advancing thanks to their 2-1 win at home in the first leg last week.

As the Cementeros squandered chance after chance, UNAM goalie Alfredo Talavera was only required to make one tough save, palming aside an Adrián Aldrete shot in minute 81.

Cruz Azul’s best chance actually came in the first half when Iván Morales shot over the crossbar in minute 20 after Uriel Antuna had sent him into the box alone on a fast break.

Pumas await MLS opponent

UNAM has never reached the final series of the region’s top club tournament in its current format though “Los Universitarios” have won the Concacaf Champions Cup (1980, 1982, 1989).

Twice before, the Pumas had reached the CCL semifinals but were wiped out in both instances, losing 5-1 on aggregate to Cruz Azul in 2010 and 4-1 to Monterrey in 2012.

This time, UNAM held on. “Los Felinos” will face either the Seattle Sounders or New York City FC. Seattle leads 3-1 entering Wednesday night’s second leg in Harrison, New Jersey.

The two-legged final will begin the final week of April with the Pumas hosting while the second leg will take place the first week of May in the United States.

Cementeros come up short

Cruz Azul enjoyed 63% possession on Tuesday night, but lacked precision going forward. Too often, the Cementeros lacked ideas in the final third, forcing passes or rushing shots.

Midfielder Ignacio Rivero was particularly bad with the ball at his feet, missing open teammates or misinterpreting their moves.

To be honest, it might be time to ask if the Juan Reynoso era at Cruz Azul has run its course. It’s fair to question the coach’s line-up choices (why didn’t Santiago Giménez start in place of Morales?) and the all-too-frequent on-field miscommunication is down to the manager.

As has happened too often since last season, “La Máquina” was tactically deficient. With a man advantage during more than half an hour (there was 8 minutes of added time), the Cementeros made it easy on the Pumas, standing and waiting instead of making the short-handed Pumas move and chase with diagonal runs.

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Cruz Azul must now concentrate on league play where they sit in fifth place. The Cementeros host the Chivas on Saturday.