Image courtesy of Goal.com
Heading into the second leg of the Liga MX final were two of the biggest names in Mexican soccer - Club America, and Cruz Azul (pronunciation: cruise uh-zool), both fierce rivals hailing from Mexico City, Mexico. Nicknamed “el Clasico Joven” (The young/juvenile classic), this rivalry boasts intense competition and heated matches between the two teams, quite often resulting in scraps on the field, as is quite frequent in Mexican soccer.
Club America was entering the final off after clawing their way out of the semi-finals, advancing on just a one goal difference. Cruz Azul however, entered the final in a dominant fashion. Beating their semi-final opponent with a four goal difference, Cruz Azul were heavy favorites to win the title, and were determined to do so, as their last title win happened in 1997, and since then have frequently slipped up in the final, resulting in Cruz Azul fans thinking that they are cursed. America on the other hand, were looking to win their first title since 2005.
With the first match ending 1-0 to Cruz Azul, everything looked to be going their way. Early on into the second match, Cruz Azul had a counter attack going when America defender Jesus Molina pulled back Cruz Azul attacker Pablo Barrera, resulting in a controversial red card. Replays showed that while Molina did pull back Barrera, America teammate Diego Reyes had fouled Barrera first, causing him to fall. With America down to 10 men and down a goal from the first game, hope started to falter. In the 20th minute, Cruz Azul forward Teofilo Gutierrez bombed down the right flank and dribbled into the box, unleashing a powerful low-driven shot into the far corner. The game, now 2-0 in favor of Cruz Azul, seemed to be over. America didn’t have enough men to create good chances, and Cruz Azul were stomping them - that is, until around the 60th minute, were America started to gain control of the match. The game remained relatively uneventful until the 74th minute, when Cruz Azul almost scored a third - the ball had just narrowly missed the goal by a couple of centimeters due to an unlucky bounce. Towards the end 80th minute, Cruz Azul manager Guillermo Vazquez subbed in injured forward Mariano Pavone to give him some time on the field before the final whistle, and the eventual crowing of Cruz Azul as champions. The game was essentially done - Cruz Azul fans were cheering and singing in the stands while America fans fell silent. The curse of not winning a title was finally lifted off the shoulders of Cruz Azul.
Or so they thought.
In the 88th minute of the game, America received a corner kick. The ball was delivered in and floated around for a bit when Aquivaldo Mosquera headed a ball into the far corner from a diving backwards header. Clumsy, but the ball was in, and suddenly, Cruz Azul fans became worried. America fans had mixed emotions. It had sparks of a comeback, but the game was minutes away from ending. In the 92nd minute, America received yet another corner kick. The ball was serviced in by young defender Miguel Layun, who produced a terrible cross, but forced a save from Cruz Azul keeper Jesus Corona, resulting in yet another corner. At this point, every single player is in the box for the corner, including America goalkeeper Moises Munoz. Layun whips in another cross, and the impossible happens. It finds the head of Munoz after a diving header, and bounces off the ground, off the leg of a Cruz Azul defender who tried to keep it out, and goes into the top corner.
Cruz Azul fans were stunned. Their players were stunned. America fans however, roared in celebration. Against the odds, they had tied the game up in the dying seconds and forced extra-time. In extra-time, both teams looked fatigued. America had been forced to play with only 10 players, yet were still dominating the match, however, they missed two big chances in the 100th and 104th minute. And so, with the match still tied 2-2 at the end of extra time, penalties were to decide the game.
As the rain began to fall, the teams lined up. Cruz Azul won the coin toss and opted to kick first. The first shot went straight down the middle, and even though Munoz dove to his right, the ball made contact with his trailing foot, denying the point. America proceeded to score their penalty. Cruz Azul then step up to take their second penalty kick, and due to the rain, slip and miss their shot. The America heavy crowd went wild after the miss, and America manager Miguel Herrera started to celebrate the misses like a madman on the sideline. Both sides end up slotting away the rest of their penalties, with Layun from America scoring the decisive penalty to give America their 11th title.
It was one of the greatest finals in Mexican soccer history. Tensions and emotions ran amok among both sets of fans. And while America celebrated winning the title, Cruz Azul hung their heads in shame - they had no one to blame for the loss but themselves. They were two minutes away from glory, and they threw it all away.