Cruz Azul, Toluca settle for stalemate in CONCACAF Champions League final first leg
Cruz Azul and Toluca settled for a scoreless draw in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League final on Tuesday night.
The two sides entered the opening match at Estadio Azul with competing priorities. Cruz Azul needed a positive result to acquire a tangible advantage ahead of the return leg at Estadio Nemesio Diez next Wednesday (8:00p.m. ET, FOX Sports 2) and calm any potential nerves about performing in a final again. Toluca required an assured display to mitigate any potential damage and perhaps snatch an away goal.
Cruz Azul goalkeeper Guillermo Allison – named in the starting XI with Jesús Corona suspended for three matches after his post-match dismissal in the wake of the second leg victory against Club Tijuana to secure a berth in the final – prevented the Red Devils from emerging with their desired end product. Allison produced a fine double save on Carlos Esquivel and Wilson Tiago before the interval to ensure the teams entered halftime on level terms. The 23-year-old then denied Pablo Velázquez from close range just after the hour mark, though the Paraguayan should have done better with his chance from six yards.
La Máquina improved after the arrivals of Achille Emana and Christian Giménez and started to present some problems for the visitors. Giménez forced Alfredo Talavera to save his effort from distance in a bid to spark his side to life. Allison produced yet another fine save from Antonio Rios’ deflected effort from distance, but the final moments nearly provided Cruz Azul with a chance to take a modest lead into the second leg.
Emana played a clever ball over the Toluca line to prompt Gimenez’s first time attempt. Talavera managed to parry it away and then set himself again to deny Marco Fabian’s attempt to turn home the rebound.
Talavera’s late heroics ensured Toluca gained a modest advantage with the initial result, but the Red Devils aren’t safe yet. Away goals still count in the final, according to CONCACAF regulations. If Cruz Azul can procure a scoring draw (or a victory, for that matter) at La Bombonera, then it can overturn the hurdle created by the first-leg tie. The edge, however, still falls with Toluca given the respective performances in the opening match and the landscape ahead next week.