America wins dramatic final over Cruz Azul
MEXICO CITY (AP) — America scored two very late goals and then beat Cruz Azul on penalties on Sunday to win Mexico’s first-division league title in dramatic style.
Trailing 1-0 after Thursday’s first leg, America’s chances looked at an end when Jesus Molina was sent off in the 14th minute for bringing down a forward when he was the last defender, and then Teofilo Gutierrez scored for Cruz Azul in the 20th minute.
Cruz Azul held that two-goal buffer until the dying stages when Aquivaldo Mosquera headed in a goal in the 89th minute.
Then in the third minute of stoppage time, America goalkeeper Moises Munoz went forward to contest a corner, managed to get in a diving header and Cruz Azul defender Alejandro Castro sliced his attempted clearance over his own goalkeeper and into the net.
After a goalless extra time, Cruz Azul’s Javier Orozco and Castro both missed in the shootout and Miguel Layun netted the winner for America.
Munoz’s goal will go down in America folklore, but the goalkeeper was eager to share the glory.
“We are all heroes,” Munoz said. “We left our hearts and souls on the pitch. We never lost faith.”
America coach Miguel Herrera echoed that praise of the players’ commitment, saying “they are a group that kill themselves on the pitch.”
Ecuador international striker Christian Benitez, who had a lucrative one-season spell with Birmingham City, had his ambitions fulfilled.
“I am happy because we honestly deserved it,” Benitez said. “Since I joined I said I wanted to be champion with this club. I never lost faith.”
The match between the two Mexico City rivals brought 100,000 fans to the Estadio Azteca in pouring rain and they saw America control much of the possession despite being down to ten men, with Cruz Azul satisfied to sit back on their lead and use counter-attacks.
A minute after Gutierrez had scored for Cruz Azul, America’s Rubens Sambueza spawned a good chance to equalize when he brought down a clipped ball over the defense from Juan Carlos Medina, but couldn’t direct his shot on goal from short range.
Cruz Azul missed a golden chance to add to their lead and put the result beyond doubt when Pablo Barrera broke down the right in the 62nd, but he elected to shoot himself and missed, when centering the ball to Gutierrez would’ve left a tap-in.
America’s Christian Benitez had the best chance in extra time when he was put clean through on goal, but Jesus Corona saved.