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CCL: Pavone ‘hat trick’ sees Cruz Azul over Sporting KC

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Cruz Azul easily overcame MLS side Sporting Kansas City at the Azul Stadium on Wednesday evening destroying the competition 5-1 in the return leg of the CONCACAF Champions League. La maquina cementera was dominant on the pitch and continues on a good pace through both competitions they are participating in.

Marco Fabian de la Mora was also active on the pitch taking part in many dangerous plays that left the Sporting defense on edge. In the final minutes of the game, the altitude began to take its effects on Kansas as the players moved sluggish and easily gave up possession of the ball.

La maquina surprised the visiting squad with an early-bird goal less than two minutes after the initial whistle. Ecuadorian Joao Rojas took the ball and centered to Mariano Pavone who was in the half-moon. The Argentine moved past the defenders and fired to goalkeeper Eric Kronberg’s left. The keeper dove but could do nothing to stop the rocket that broke his net for the 1-0.

Like Tijuana the night before, Cruz Azul closed the aggregate gap very quickly and had the entire game ahead to score the winning goals.

On a play that began on a foul near the line, Cristian “Chaco” Gimenez sent a long pass to Marco Fabian who beat his markers taking the ball down the line. He shot, but Kronberg stopped the ball. He could not hold on to it and Pavone ran in to hammer the ball into the net for the 2-0 in the 23rd minute.

Sporting defender Joshua Gardner was substituted minutes before the end of the first half after suffering a collision with a player earlier in the game. He was replaced by Mechack Jerome. Seconds later Benny Feilhaber would close the aggregate gap to 2-2 putting Sporting in the semifinals on the away goals rule.

In the final minute of compensation time of the first half the referee forgave Jerome a clear penalty. The Kansas player delivered a kick to Fabian’s side while they were chasing a loose ball inside the penalty area. The half ended seconds after Fabian recovered with Cruz Azul leading 2-1, but behind 2-2 on aggregate.

Cruz Azul kicked off the second half pressuring the Kansas defense. In the 55th minute Sergio Napoles took the ball to the penalty box then centered to Pavone who had a defender on him. Pavone was stumbling but hit the ball with the tip of his boot to put it past Kronberg for the 3-1.

The goals did not stop. Fabian took a ball all the way to the line beating out Jerome and passing back to Pavone. Kronberg stopped the ball but could not control it. Mauro Formica was there to hit the rebound in for the 4-1.

Gimenez put the ball in the net in the 69th when Formica headed the ball to him past the defense. Alone he shot to the far post. The ball hit and rebounded in for the 5-1. The altitude began to be a factor at the Azul as la maquina thrived and Sporting struggled with 20 minutes left on the board.

After Pavone was subbed out to an ovation, Fabian followed suit in the 85th. However, Fabian was replaced by Pablo Barrera, player who had not been on the pitch due to surgery. The game concluded with Cruz Azul taking the game 5-1, and an overall 5-2 on aggregate. They will face Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente in the semifinals.

Other CONCACAF results:

Club Tijuana 4, L.A. Galaxy 2 (4-3 aggregate)

Toluca FC 1, San Jose Earthquakes 1 (Toluca advances 5-4 on penalty kicks)

Arabe Unido, Alajuelense (still to play)

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