Wakened from a deep sorrowful sleep and launched back into relevance, those who were low have again risen. They rise again to join the playoff hunt with the hopes of losing in gut-wrenching fashion in said playoffs. But nonetheless, after the pitiful performances prior to Saturday, even fulfilling the stereotypical Cruz Azul season seemed out of reach. With the 2-0 home win over Chiapas, Cruz Azul gained three valuable points in the standings. However, the real win for Cruz Azul this weekend came from their level play throughout the ninety minutes.
This resurgence of form, while admittedly short, must be most deservedly attributed to the play of the defense. On Saturday, they were facing off against the Colombian strike force of Chiapas, namely Jackson Martinez and Franco Arizala. Jesus Corona was of course Jesus Corona. He was solid throughout the match, but he was only truly tested one time. In the 38th minute, Jackson Martinez slipped past the defense and was bounding on to the ball when he met Corona in the air at the edge of the box. Corona cleared the ball out and left Martinez in a pile on the ground. Martinez and company would only get one other clear chance at goal, which Martinez struck wide in the 56th minute.
Enough cannot be said about the play of the four men in front of Corona: Julio Cesar Dominguez, Nestor Araujo, Jair Pereira, and Fausto Pinto. They made the defense look effortless for much of the match, while continuing to make dangerous runs forward. Araujo, in particular, is really coming in to his own in defense. He was not only a wall on the backline, but set up Chaco Giminez with a beautiful header for a sure goal that he flubbed just before half time. I would suspect that the 20 year old Araujo will be the stalwart of the Azul defense for years to come, but also a similar role for El Tri. As for the others, Dominguez easily could have scored as his header deflected off the crossbar in the 46th minute, and Pereira did score on a Chaco corner in the 55th minute.
Cruz Azul looked like the better team on both ends the majority of the match. All the more impressive, since Tito Villa had his hands on some coffee rather than the ball and Javier ‘Pedroia’ Aquino didn’t come on until late while not having his usual great game. Also, Cruz Azul managed to keep the streak of having an apparent goal disallowed to 47 games, when Omar Bravo’s 10th minute shot was waved off by the linesman.
I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t mention the real reason for the turnaround and the goals finding the back of the net in the second half. My participation in the halftime show, where I was able to deftly score from the PK spot past the bunny mascot. As I strode towards the ball (after being spun around 10 times), out of the corner of my eye, I spotted Enrique Meza looking on with intent at my approach. Undoubtedly, after seeing the way in which I struck the ball into the netting past the (albeit distracted) giant rabbit, Meza was able to find the right words to rally the troops and urge them toward victory.
I can’t take total credit for this victory, but I can say that I never doubted that they would turn things around.