Cruz Azul won the 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League on the away-goals rule after its 1-1 draw at Toluca in the second leg of the final on April 23, 2014. (Photo: Mexsport)
TOLUCA, Mexico - Cruz Azul became the CONCACAF club champion for a record-setting sixth time on Wednesday, when it captured the 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League title on the away-goals rule after a 1-1 draw with Toluca in the second leg of the final. The two sides played to a scoreless stalemate in the opener on April 15 in Mexico City.
As a result of the triumph, Cruz Azul qualifies for the FIFA Club World Cup next December in Morocco.
Mariano Pavone, the tournament’s Golden Ball winner as the best player, scored what proved to be the championship-clinching goal in the 41st minute.
Joao Rojas sent a cross from the right wing to the left side of the box for an unmarked Marco Fabian. The Mexico international immediately delivered a perfect pass to far post for Pavone to pound into the net from three-yards out. It was the Argentine’s team-high fifth goal of the tournament.
Though Toluca had some solid scoring opportunities in the first half, it became more dynamic after the break with the introduction of Raul Nava. The 23-year-old striker finished as the tournament’s top scorer with seven goals, but had not started in the last three games.
Once Edgar Benitez entered the match seven minutes later, the Red Devils began to fire on all cylinders. He scored against Cruz Azul in the 2009-10 final with Pachuca and repeated that feat in the 63rd minute to knot the score at 1-1.
Wilson Tiago found Benitez on the left side of the box with a short pass. The Paraguay international took a separating touch and from a severe angle drilled a shot past goalkeeper Jesus Corona into the top of the net.
Despite that tally, Toluca needed one more to win the title, since Cruz Azul had the advantage of an away goal.
Christian Gimenez almost sealed a victory for the visitors, but his left-sided free kick crashed off the crossbar.
In the game’s last seconds, a long-distance blast by Miguel Ponce forced Corona into a stunning save. The ball fell to Pablo Velazquez in front of an open goal, but his follow-up went over the bar.
The regional title is Cruz Azul’s first 1997, when – coincidentally – Luis Fernando Tena was its head coach.