An all-Mexican affair in CONCACAF
Familiar foes Pachuca and Cruz Azul will contest the 2010 CONCACAF Champions League final after completing aggregate wins in this week’s all-Mexican semi-finals. The prize for the victors is a place in the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2010.
Los Tuzos squeezed past Toluca with a 1-0 home win, while Cruz Azul had far less trouble in disposing of arch rivals Pumas, following up last season’s quarter-final triumph over the same opposition with a 5-0 rout.
Pachuca 1-0 Toluca (Pachuca win 2-1 on aggregate)
Goal: Edy Brambila 45.
Goal of the week
Cruz Azul 3-0 Pumas (Adrian Cortes, 77')
The tie between these two fierce Mexico City rivals was delicately poised at 2-1 when Los Celestes were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the area. Stepping up to take it, left-back Adrian Cortes whipped a superb shot around the wall and into the top right-hand corner of Sergio Bernal’s goal, effectively killing off Pumas’ hopes.
Meza works the oracle: Cruz Azul have had the measure of Pumas in recent times. Celeste coach Enrique Meza ensured their dominance of the fixture continued by sending out a surprise line-up featuring several fringe players. The strategic switch worked to perfection as his refreshed side outran their opponents in the closing stages, scoring three late goals to complete an emphatic and comfortable win.
Pachuca pull through: Pachuca have made a habit of progressing to major international finals. Three-time CONCACAF champions and the winners of the Copa Sudamericana in 2006, Los Tuzos are used to the big occasion and know what it takes to get the job done. Taking the lead against Toluca just before half-time, they then relied on their defensive strengths and the excellent form of goalkeeper Miguel Calero to blunt their opponents’ attacks and run down the clock in expert fashion.
The curse of Los Celestes: Cruz Azul have reached four finals in different competitions over the last two years and have ended up losing the lot, including last year’s showpiece in this very competition, when they came off second-best to Atlante. Cruz will be hoping it is a case of “fifth time lucky” later this month, though with seasoned trophy winners Pachuca providing the opposition, their luckless run could well continue.
FIFA World Cup™ contenders
Shorn of Mexico internationals, who were all attending a training get-together with national coach Javier Aguirre, the semi-finals featured only a sprinkling of players who will be on duty at South Africa 2010. The most prominent among them was Cruz Azul’s talented Paraguayan midfielder Cristian Riveros, who scored one of his side’s five goals and had a hand in a couple of others. Compatriot Dario Veron had a far unhappier outing with Pumas, earning a red card after 75 minutes, the prelude to three late Celeste goals. Fellow Guaraní Edgar Benitez was in excellent form for Pachuca, while Chilean striker Hector Mancilla was unable to work his usual magic for losers Toluca.
Cruz Azul-Pachuca (first leg 21 April, second leg 28 April)
Have your say
Can Cruz Azul finally end their trophy curse or will Pachuca prevail yet again?