It did not take long for Tigres to take the initiative in the Liga MX Apertura final vs Pumas. It was all of 10 minutes before the Monterrey side grabbed hold of the series and looks to not let go.
For some, the penalty called against Pumas’ Javier Cortés was karmic justice. It was Cortés’ tackle that led to the fracture of America’s Javier Güémez last week in the their semifinal. Cortés was not carded or even called for a foul. Andre Pierre Gignac, the French international who has been nothing short of sensational since his arrival to the Sultana del Norte this past summer, delivered a thundering, unstoppable blast. It was 1-0, but it may well have been 10-0. The rout was on. The Frenchman, along with his strike partner, former Brazilian international Rafael Sobis, had their way with a Pumas backline that has picked the worst time in the season to become ball watchers. Their inability to control the scoring tandem was only compounded by the fact that Tigres’ wingers, Javier Aquino and Jurgen Damm, feasted on their slower defenders. And then there was the complete control in the midfield by Guido Pizarro. The Argentine, like most holding midfielders, will never get the recognition he deserves, but the way he dominated the middle of the pitch was as close to an MVP performance as one can see at a championship game. There is a reason why the strikers and wingers were so effective. The reason last night was Pizarro.
One would have never known that Damm was playing with an injury that limited his effectiveness. Pumas had no answer for the right winger’s deep runs, where Damm set up his wingman Aquino with the second.
2 goals for Pumas to overcome was always going to be difficult, but a third would be borderline insurmountable. And that is exactly what happened early in the second half as Sobis, tipped in a Gignac shot that Pikolin Palacios could only parry away. It is interesting that for the second week in a row, a team will take a 3-goal lead to the second leg to Mexico’s Olympic Stadium on Sunday. The difference here is Pumas is just not equipped to take the offensive initiative like Club America was. They are an absorb and counter side that used the strategy to great success during the season.
Now they will have to press a team whose coach, Tuca Ferretti, despite having more than 70% possession in the first leg, can’t shake his reputation as being the cat mouse coach. It is true that Tuca has softened a little; his teams play a little more offensively than before. But when they need, they counter, and like they showed last week in Toluca, it is still as lethal as ever
There are still 90 minutes left to play, and we all know that anything can happen. But Tigres is the team that has the most talent, and playing the best soccer right now. And Tuca is still Tuca. They can be be more offensive, but order and shape is still what he cares about most.
What it all means is that come Sunday night, for the 2nd time in two months, Tuca will emerge sans moustache and Tigres will have their 4th trophy in hand.