Cruz Azul takes another step toward respectability, sort of

Liga MX Cruz Azul Pumas

Rodrigo Huescas (left) was a 1st-half hero for Cruz Azul, scoring in minute 26, but then he helped show why the Cementeros’ defense is the worst in Liga MX as “La Máquina” stumbled around in the 2nd half, barely holding off a late Pumas charge. (Photo by Mauricio Salas/Jam Media/Getty Images)

Cruz Azul continued its remarkable resurgence in spite of itself, slipping and sliding past UNAM in a downpour at the CU.

The 2-1 victory lifted the Cementeros into eighth place momentarily, nine spots above where they sat just nearly a month ago after the 7-0 spanking at the hands of América.

Cruz Azul skipper Jesús Corona was under duress much of the second half as his teammates took turns dribbling into trouble, making terrible passes and losing possessions rapidly.

The veteran goalie made 10 saves, three of the spectacular variety including won shot that deflected off his face before clanging off the right post.

Back in the Liga MX postseason conversation

Thanks to two first-half goals, “La Máquina” delivered a near fatal blow to their other crosstown rivals as UNAM remained 4 points adrift of the final Liga MX playoff spot with just two games remaining.

The Pumas scratched and clawed their way back into the game as the skies opened midway through the second half and had a game-tying goal annulled in minute 89 when Dani Alves started his run a bit too soon and was offside down the right flank. Juan Ignacio Dinenno’s header (from a lovely Alves cross) was canceled and the Cementeros were able to close the door thereafter.

The win was the third in a row for the Cementeros who improved to 4-1-1 under interim manager Raúl Gutiérrez.

Cruz Azul now has 21 points from 16 matches (6-3-7) but two clubs could surpass them later tonight (Atlético de San Luis and León). The Cementeros’ –9 goal differential (among the worst in Liga MX) puts them in a difficult position in case of tiebreaker.

As for UNAM, “los felinos” are in 16th place in the Liga MX table with 14 points (2-8-5) and games against Puebla and FC Juárez remaining. The Camoteros (9th place) and the Bravos (13th place) maintain hopes of claiming a wildcard berth and the season finale will see goalie Alfredo Talavera make his return to the CU with a chance to snuff out his former team’s fading title dreams.