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Advantage, Cruz Azul.
After a 1-0 win in Thursday’s first leg of the Liga MX finals, Cruz Azul now have the upperhand over Santos Laguna before the second leg this Sunday.
With a Mexican soccer championship up for grabs, there will be an immense amount on the line.
For Cruz Azul, the end of a title drought that has cursed them for decades will finally be over.
|As for Santos, another win would bring them one step closer to being recognized as one of the members of the upper echelon in Liga MX. Despite the previous loss, Santos were worthy of more and have a thrilling amount of energy and drive in the playoffs this season.
The weight of the title curse will be too much for Cruz Azul as well.
|Cruz Azul vs Santos Laguna Information|
|Teams||Cruz Azul vs Santos Laguna|
|Location||Estadio Azteca (Mexico City, Mexico)|
|Time||Sunday, May 30th at 9:15pm ET|
|How to Watch||TUDN|
One Liga MX finals leg down, one to go.
After the final whistle from Thursday’s first encounter, Santos found themselves scratching their heads as they looked up at the 1-0 scoreline in favor of their opponents.
For the most part, they seemed to have done everything right: Chance creation, possession, avoiding fouls, and a good overall game from their goalkeeper.
All that was missing was the goal.
With more than double the amount of Cruz Azul’s eight shots in the match, Santos had no lack of opportunities on Thursday.
It was an off-game, and despite their slim detriment, Santos do still has reason to feel reassured about what could emerge this Sunday.
With a 1-0 lead in hand, it’ll be expected for Cruz Azul manager Juan Reynoso to sit back in the 2nd leg.
Pragmatism and caution, a couple of things that he has been criticized for in 2021, are characteristics of his strategy this season.
And for the most part, it has worked. They finished at the top of the regular-season standings and are now just 90 minutes away from lifting their first league title of the 21st century.
That said, when looking at Cruz Azul’s previous game in isolation, it’s difficult to assume that the result would once again be to their liking if it were replayed in the same fashion.
Although they only hit the target once, Santos constantly looked dangerous with the 16 shots they had in total in the 1-0 loss to Cruz Azul on Thursday.
In comparison to Cruz Azul — who were playing with fire by inviting plenty of attacking pressure and therefore only had eight shots themselves — Santos dictated the pace of the game with 65% possession.
When looking at non-shot xG (expected goals) numbers from FiveThirtyEight, Santos were impressive with their 1.2 tallies. In comparison, Cruz Azul’s non-shot xG was nearly half at 0.7.
Santos deserved more in the game and will be sure to amplify their energy in the second leg.
And as for Cruz Azul, there are no guarantees that they’ll be able to fight off the stress of their title drought.
Both players and managers from Cruz Azul’s past have mentioned it: There’s an often-discussed curse that surrounds the club.
Often seen as the bad luck team of Liga MX, Cruz Azul are synonymous with catastrophic failures and moments of misfortune in high-profile scenarios.
We’ve seen it in numerous Liga MX finals appearances, and looking ahead to the weekend, the burden of attempting to ward off that curse has dealt blows to several talented Cruz Azul teams.
With more to lose than Santos who are more widely seen as up-and-comers, league giants like Cruz Azul have little room for error.
The advantage, which is a narrow one, won’t be enough to keep Santos at bay.
Freelance writer Cesar Hernandez is a specialist in all things American and Mexican soccer. He has written for ESPN FC, The Athletic, The Guardian, FourFourTwo, VICE Sports and several other publications. Along with writing and previous radio appearances on the BBC, talkSPORT and SiriusXM FC, Cesar is also a member of the Mexican Soccer Show podcast. Email: [email protected]More info on Cesar Hernandez
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