Fans of Cruz Azul. - (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
In a thrilling first leg, Cruz Azul hung onto a 2-1 victory over Club Leon, thanks to a fantastic late save by Jose Corona.
Cruz Azul will be happy to head into the second leg of their Liguilla quarterfinal with a lead, but their position is far from secure. While Liga MX does not use seed as the first tiebreaker in the quarterfinals anymore, they're still in trouble on the away goals tiebreaker after allowing Club Leon to score. However, thanks to the heroics of Jose Corona, the visitors only netted once in a 2-1 Cruz Azul win.
Leon conceded multiple set pieces early, and was made to pay for one in the 17th minute. 'Chaco' Christian Gimenez delivered a perfect ball into the center of the box to set up the opener for Gerardo Flores, who jumped over his marker to nod past Christian Martinez, putting Cruz Azul in front. Martinez reacted very slowly on the goal, but redeemed himself three minutes later when he saved a penalty.
Carlos Peña gave away the spot kick with a foul on Javier Aquino, but Gimenez failed to place his penalty anywhere near the corner, allowing Martinez to get across and make a save. That gave Leon a boost, and they played very well for the rest of the first half, but were unable to find a goal.
Their well-deserved goal finally came in the 56th minute, and it was an excellent one, set up by Hernan Burbano for Sebastian Maz. On a counter, Burbano played a perfect through ball to Maz, who placed a composed finish to the back post from 12 yards. Sadly for Leon, they remained level for just two minutes. Mariano Pavone put Cruz Azul back in front instantly, finishing off a move created by Aquino and Gimenez.
The visitors pushed hard for an equalizer, and only failed to get it thanks to the heroics of Jose Corona. The Cruz Azul goalkeeper made two brilliant saves in quick succession in the 88th minute, including a world class stop from point blank range on Peña, preserving his team's victory.
A 2-1 result is an acceptable one for both sides, and they will both feel like they have a chance to advance after the second leg without making any dramatic adjustments to their tactics.