Offshore drilling, Mexico: at Tigres 4 (5), Monarcas 1 (1)

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Man of the Match: Going up again his former club, Elias Hernández dominated the right flank, forcing a change from Monarcas coach Tomas Boy after 30 minutes. Within seconds after Adrian Aldrete was brought off, new left back Carlos Guzman was getting torched. You’d expect Boy to have a plan for a man he coached for three years, but on Sunday, Morelia was never able to slow down Hernández.

Tigres entered today’s second leg up 1-0 after their mid-week win in Morelia.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • After 45 minutes, it looked like the defending champions were going to ride their 1-0 lead into the semifinals. They’d taken a stranglehold of the match, keeping a Morelia team that started without forward Rafael Marquez Lugo from connecting with talismanic striker Miguel Sabah.
  • The floodgates opened in the 64th minute when defender Hugo Ayala, inexplicably chilling just outside the six-yard box, hammered home a knockdown from forward Héctor Mancilla (which, I learned today, sounds like man-SHEE-shah in a Uruguayan/Argentine accent).
  • Ten minutes later, a wall terribly positioned by Morelia goalkeeper Federico Vilar (along with the `keeper’s mistaken instinct to jump behind said wall) gave Tigres midfield Lucas Lobos the left post from 19 yards. Two minutes later, miscommunication between defender Mauricio Romero and Vilar gifted Edno Cunha a gift goal. Tigres went up 4-1, capping three nightmarish minutes for Vilar.
  • Sabah pulled one back (only the second time in the last eight playoff games Tigres has been scored on), but with a spot kick in the 91st minute, Hernández got a deserved goal, ending a five goal second half and a quarterfinal that will look slightly more lopsided than it actually played.
  • If you happened to be a Santos player watching from Torreon, the second half was scary. Not only did it remind you of the Apertura’s final (when Tigres second three times in the final 40 minutes to win, 4-1), but it showed a semifinal opponent that may have regained their champions’ form.
  • But unlike that final, Tigres will go into the semifinal the lower seed, having to play the second leg on the road. We’ve seen they can post goals when the opposition has to chase them, but in a position where they’ll need to outscore Santos, it’s unclear they can rely on suffocating their opponents.
  • With Damian Alvarez and Hernández, Tigres have an avenue toward goals. While Mancilla is going to have his hands full with Santos defenders Felipe Baloy and Aaron Galindo, Alvarez and Hernández are likely to be able to concentrate on breaking down full backs Jorge Estrada and Osmar Mores. Tigres’ defense will have to figure out how to handle Santos’s attack-heavy approach, but there is a good chance Tigres can grab the first goal and again force their opponents to come after them.