1997 was the last time that Cruz Azul and its fans celebrated a league title. They were seconds away from claiming that title that had long eluded them on a raining Sunday night at the Azteca.
Yet, within a span of four minutes, Cruz Azul, up 1-0 in the game, saw the beginning of what turned out to be a nightmare that ended with the team losing another final, ensuring that the club and its fans’ suffering will continue for at least another six months.
In the first leg, Cruz Azul found a way to squeak out a 1-0 win by being able to capitalize on the lone scoring chance they were able to generate. They knew that the team would need to play better as América was going to come out them with everything in the return leg on Sunday night, just like they did in the first.
With América playing with 10 after Jesus Molina was sent off for a foul deemed to deny an obvious goal-scoring opportunity, Cruz Azul and it’s fans began to feel relaxed and it looked like like the title was theirs.
Yet, Cruz Azul failed to add to their lead in the second half as they failed to score any of their scoring opportunities, with América goalkeeper Moises Munoz making a couple of quality saves to deny them.
This would come back to be their undoing. In a five-minute scenario that resembled that of the 1999 UEFA Champions League Final, América’s continued persistence somehow found a way to crush the souls of the players and fans of Cruz Azul and sent the game into extra time and then penalties.
Once América took the lead in the game and tied it in the aggregate scoreline, Cruz Azul looked defeated team as their opponents would go on to claim the title and with that, doom Cruz Azul to losing its fifth consecutive final since it last won a league title.
For Cruz Azul and its fans, the fact that the club has gone almost two decades since a league title is a dark cloud that has been an object of obsession and frustration. With the collapse of the final few minutes, those dark and stormy clouds will only intensify as this loss will hurt the most, given how they lost and who they lost to.
The closest analogy I can give for American sports fans about how devastating this loss for Cruz Azul is what the Boston Red Sox felt when Bill Buckner was unable to handle Mookie Wilson‘s ground ball in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. The hurt of this loss will stay with the fans until the club is able to exorcise the demons of being unable to win a championship.
When Cruz Azul finally breaks its league title drought and is able to celebrate the ninth title in club history, it will be a day of great joy and relief for the club and its fans.
Yogi Berra once stated that it ain’t over until the fat lady sings. Tonight, Cruz Azul learned that lesson the hard way.