Colorado Rapids international partner-club CF Pachuca, which plays in Mexico’s Primera Division, captured the CONCACAF Champions League title with a 1-0 victory over Cruz Azul on Wednesday night.
Time and again, the term “full 90” proves to be a misnomer. On Wednesday night, Pachuca needed a full 94 minutes to earn their third CONCACAF Champions League title in four years with a stoppage-time goal from Edgar Benítez.
The result put the aggregate score at 2-2, following the 2-1 result in the first leg, and Pachuca took the honors thanks to the away-goal rule.
Cruz Azul, who lost on the final day in 2009 as well, arrived at Pachuca’s Hidalgo Stadium looking for a scoreless draw. They played a strong defensive game and got a world-class performance from goalkeeper José Corona.
But the visitors also nearly broke through in just the second minute, when Javier Orozco pulled off a perfect sombrero to slip the defender at the top right side of the box. In alone, his shot let him down and a diving save from Pachuca goalkeeper Miguel Calero nullified the chance.
In the 24th minute, Pachuca began an onslaught that would last the rest of the game. American midfielder José Francisco Torres, whose frequent interplay with Damián Álvarez drove the Gophers’ attack, clipped a cross to the far post, bouncing the ball off the top of the woodwork.
Torres was again involved in the 56th minute, firing a low shot from the left side that Corona stretched to smother. The Azulino ‘keeper, who backstopped Mexico at last year’s Gold Cup, was careful not to give up a rebound.
In the 82nd minute, Juan Carlos Rojas should’ve eased the fans’ nerves. After a couple of cuts back and forth in the area near the end line, he set himself up for a free, open shot from just seven yards. But, eyes big, he put his shot over the bar.
All looked lost for the Gophers as the clock ticked past the 90-minute mark. Then, a clever pass from Álvarez into Benítez at the top of the Cruz Azul area presented one last chance. The young Paraguayan striker fended off a challenge, spun his defender, and side-volleyed the winning goal past the unfortunate Corona.
Pachuca now advance to the FIFA Club World Cup, taking place in the United Arab Emirates in December. It will be Pachuca’s third trip to the international championship in the last four years.
Pachuca became the Rapids’ second international partner in 2007 after the announcement of the first club-to-club partnership with Arsenal FC from the English Premier League earlier that year.