After winning their respective groups with unbeaten records, Sporting KC and Cruz Azul will collide in the quarterfinals of the 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League in March. Ahead of the home-and-away match-up, SportingKC.com will be providing regular updates on La Máquina as part of the site's CCL Crash Course series. Want to know more about the tournament? Check out our 2013-14 CCL Guide.
Cruz Azul continued their torrid start to the Liga Bancomer MX Clausura with a 1-0 win over Puebla Saturday night at Estadio Azul in Mexico City. Marco Fabian’s stoppage-time goal kept the team’s unbeaten season alive, as La Maquina improved their winning streak to six straight.
Luis Fernando Tena’s side remains the only unbeaten team in the Mexican first division after improving to 6-0-1 through seven games. Even more impressive, Cruz Azul has allowed only two goals in 2014 and holds a +12 goal differential.
Despite only one goal on the score sheet, Saturday’s game was not without drama. The two teams traded disallowed goals in the first half, starting with Puebla in the second minute. Matias Alustiza snuck between a pair of Cruz Azul defenders to head a Carlos Sanchez through ball past goalkeeper Jesus Corona, but the assistant referee ruled that the Argentine striker was offside.
Ten minutes later it was Cruz Azul’s turn. Mario Pavone, who entered the match with two goals and four assists in the Clausura, headed Rogelio Chavez’s free kick past the Puebla goalkeeper Jorge Villalpando, but Pavone was ruled offside and the game remained scoreless.
Corona finished the match with four saves and improved his league-best goals against average to 0.29. The Mexican national team goalkeeper is tied with Toluca goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera atop the league-shutout chart with five.
After a scoreless first 45 minutes, the visitors continued to press in the second half looking to put an end to La Maquina’s unbeaten streak. U.S. Men’s National Team defender DaMarcus Beasley was in the thick of the action, when he received a ball three yards from the Cruz Azul net, but the veteran defender was unable to get off a clean shot as a defender came sliding in to block the attempt.
Minutes later, Luis Noriega found an opening behind the Cruz Azul back line, but the Puebla midfielder was unable to connect on a through ball as the ball skipped under his left foot and was cleared from danger.
Joao Rojas had a good opportunity to open the scoring for Cruz Azul in the 71st minute. The speedy midfielder cut behind the Puebla defense and received a long ball from Marco Fabian. Rojas fired a shot past Villalpando, but defender Jesus Chavez raced back to head the ball away from the goal.
With the game in its dying minutes, Fabian used a bit of magic to break the deadlock. The Mexican national team striker received the ball at the top of the penalty box, turned a Puebla defender and deftly chipped the ball into the top corner of the net. Fabian has four goals and two assists since being acquired on loan in December from Chivas de Guadalajara.
Cruz Azul will return to action Friday when they travel to Estadio Corregidora to face Queretaro F.C. Los Gallos Blancos currently sit in eighth place in the Clausura and are coming off a 2-1 loss to Chivas last Sunday.