Cruz Azul takes 3-1 lead over Atlante in semis

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In one of the best encounters of the Apertura 2008, La Máquina Celeste of Cruz Azul took an important advantage in its semifinal series with a 3-1 home victory over the Potros de Hierro of Atlante.

The fans at the Estadio Azul were treated to an exciting, back-and-forth encounter between two offensive-minded and dynamic squads.

Another spectacle was the battle of tacticians between two young Mexican coaches, Benjamín Galindo and José Guadalupe Cruz, whose carefully contemplated moves were evident on the pitch. In the end, the less experienced of the two, Galindo, proved to be the winner.

Cruz Azul forward Miguel Sabah opened up the scoring in the ninth minute after he perfectly executed a shot from the penalty spot, while Gerardo Lugo made the most of a perfect pass by captain Gerardo Torrado, to double the Cementeros lead 2-0 in the 23rd minute.

Going down in the score early, the Potros did not resort to defend and never hesitated to continue their attack.

Instead, forward Giancarlo Maldonado was brought into the match and Atlante displayed its intention to preserve its offensive philosophy and continue in search of the goal that would cut the distance in the scoreboard.

In the 31st minute, playmaker Gabriel Pereyra lobbed a pass to Christian "Hobbit" Bermudez, who perfectly crossed it across the penalty area where Colombian forward Luis Gabriel Rey connected a header to put the visitors on the board for the 2-1 score.

If the first half did not relent in action, the second half lived up to expectations. With an exemplary Atlante goalkeeper Federico Vilar under the three posts, an acrobatic Potros defense doing anything to defend their goal, and three shots to the woodwork that continued to deny the advances of an ever-growing Cruz Azul dominance.

With 10 minutes left in the encounter, Atlante coach José Guadalupe Cruz, appeared to have effectively managed the deficit with tactical changes that would allow him to confront the next match with a more accessible score.

However, in the 81 minute, Cruz Azul would capitalize on its persistence and dominance when a tricky free-kick shot by midfielder Jaime Lozano surprised goalkeeper Vilar and bounced into the goal for the definitive 3-1 score.

While the Cementeros exerted a clearer dominance in scoring opportunities and in the score, Atlante did not stay back and maintained an attacking mentality despite an early deficit.

With this result, Atlante is now obligated to win the return leg match by a difference of two goals to have any chance of advancing to the finals and try to repeat its championship feat of the Torneo Apertura 2007.

For its part, Cruz Azul will leave satisfied after a complete and dominant performance that earned it a good series advantage and a big step en route to a second consecutive finals.

The decisive match of this quarterfinal series will take place on Saturday at the Estadio Andrés Quintana Roo in Cancún.