By DANIEL PRICE
Cruz Azul paid a heavy price for resting their best players in last Friday’s Liga MX encounter against Morelia.
Morelia destroyed an understrength Cruz Azul side, 5-1 thanks to a pair of goals from Hector Mancilla. La Maquina had chosen to rest a number of their key players in advance of Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League final against Toluca, though the league leaders still wouldn’t have expected to be humiliated in such comprehensive fashion.
Morelia started quickly and led 2-0 after just twenty five minutes. Aldo Ramirez grabbed the opener when he crashed a wonderful long range effort in off the crossbar, before Hector Mancilla added the second when replacement goalkeeper Guillermo Allison failed to deal with his tame shot. Cruz Azul pulled one back through Achille Emana, but Mancilla added Morelia’s third on the stroke of halftime from the penalty spot. Duvier Riascos scored his third goal of the season with quarter of an hour remaining and Oscar Fernandez Monroy completed the rout with two minutes to go.
The win sees Morelia jump into the top eight and they could yet face Cruz Azul again in the Liguilla quarter final in two weeks. Cruz Azul stay first and will now turn their attention to beating Toluca and lifting the Champions League trophy for the sixth time in their history.
Here’s a closer look at the best of Liga MX from Clausura Round 16:
MONTERREY RAMPANT AGAINST VERACRUZ
Monterrey couldn’t quite match Morelia’s five goal haul against Veracruz, but they still managed to net four goals against a disappointing Veracruz. Suazo played a key role, scoring twice and grabbing an assist.
Veracruz took the lead after twenty minutes through an Alfredo Moreno freekick, but their advantage only lasted five minutes. Cesar Delgado scored the equalizer off Suazo’s corner, returning the favor ten minutes later by crossing from the right flank for Suazo to head home. Cardozo scored the third with an excellent long range drive before Suazo added his second and Monterrey’s fourth in stoppage time.
Monterrey move into thirteenth, but with only one point separating Morelia in sixth from Chiapas in fourteenth they could yet snatch a late playoff berth. Veracruz drop below Puebla and into last place – after a dismal 2014 points gained now could yet be crucial in helping them avoid relegation next summer.
PUMAS UNAM SECURE PLAYOFF SPOT
Pumas UNAM beat Chivas de Guadalajara 1-0 to guarantee a top eight finish a place in the Liguilla. They join Cruz Azul and Toluca as the only sides currently certain of their participation.
The game’s solitary goal came from Roberto Ramirez Monroy after 55 minutes. The youngster picked up Efrain Velarde’s pass, evaded two challenges and coolly slotted the ball past Jose Rodriguez for his second goal of the season. Pumas deserved their win, with Chivas failing to challenge Alejandro Palacios with enough frequency to justify taking any points away from the game.
The defeat sees Chivas drop out of the top eight, and their final game against Monterrey in the Estadio Omnilife now looks like it becomes a winner-takes-all playoff decider. Pumas lie third but are unable to catch Toluca in second. Although their playoff spot is secure they could get drop down the table depending on next week’s results.
BEST OF THE REST
Defending champions Club Leon could still take a playoff spot after they beat Tigres UANL 3-0, Atlas kept their playoff hopes alive after beating an understrength Toluca 1-0, and Puebla secured a surprise 2-1 win against Pachuca in the Estadio Hidalgo to serious dent the home team’s Liguilla ambitions.
Here’s a full look at all the results from Clausura Round 16 in the Liga MX:
Morelia 5, Cruz Azul 1
Club America 0, Queretaro 0
Pachuca 1, Puebla 2
Monterrey 4, Veracruz 1
Santos Laguna 2, Chiapas 3
Club Leon 3, Tigres UANL 0
Pumas UNAM 1, Chivas de Guadalajara 0
Atlante 1, Club Tijuana 2