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Tigres and El Volcan Close 2011 with a Roar

Droplets of water fell on Estadio Universitario’s field for much of the day; Monterrey began shedding tears of joy even before Marco Antonio Rodriguez whistled the start of the Apertura’s final.

The Tigres fans' canticos and chants added literal meaning to El Volcan’s eruption of joy; the 12th player made its presence felt with an exclamation point.

The stadium had its first major roar in the 11th minute as Danilinho received a ball inside the box, and Oswaldo Sanchez with no hesitation came out of his area to block a hypothetic shot. The daring Brazilian midfielder opted to pass, leaving him vulnerable to Sanchez, who slid right through. Luckily, the Brazilian evaded the tackle.

Chiquimarco’s interpretation of the entire play concluded with a penalty kick for Ferretti’s men and a red card to Santos’ captain – the game instantly lost its grandeur.

Backup goalkeeper Miguel Becerra, clearly out of shape, had not played a single minute throughout the season. After four minutes of warming up, thanks to Sanchez’s rants to Mexico’s exuberant referee, Becerra came onto the pitch and proceeded to block Lucas Lobos’s poorly taken penalty shot.

Withstanding the huge waves and not drowning, los guerreros fulfilled the unexpected as Oribe Peralta, unmarked inside the box, tapped in his easiest - and sweetest - 2011 goal in the 29th minute. After an excellent play started by the Ecuadorian Christian Suarez with his great control of the ball, followed by a lightning left-footed cross by Ramoncito Morales’ brother, Carlos, and a domino touch by Chema Cardenas to Peralta, Benjamin Galindo’s team silenced El Volcan for 35 seconds.

Minutes before the end of the first half, Lucas Lobos appeared to have vindicated himself with a wondrous goal, an acrobatic chilena, but was instead congratulated with a yellow card. Chiquimarco and his assistant saw a dangerous foul by the Argentinean instead, wiping out what could have been the best goal of 2011 in Mexican soccer.

After Sanchez’s send off, El Tuca called Carlos Salcido, the player who has managed to anchor both his team’s offense and defense. In the second half, Salcido stole the show. Yes, Tigres had an extra man for a big chunk of the game and series, but Salcido provided leadership and his composure permitted Damian, Danilinho, and Lobos to do what they do best – attack.

The first 25 minutes of the second half saw the conclusion of Galindo’s Santos; they were a walking dead team. The hunger of Tigres was more than evident as they created a shot opportunity during nearly every offensive play. Mancilla hammered in the tie with a header in the 51st minute, and Danilinho made it 2-1 after an excellent run on the right flank.

To the game’s dismay, Chiquimarco sent off Santos’ vice-captain Felipe Baloy after a dangerous and imprudent tackle on Tigres’ gambetero, Lobos. Israel Jimenez in an immature act started a rift with Santos’ players, and fell as easy prey to Chiquimarco, receiving the game's third red card.

With a push in from a Tigres youth system player, Alan Pulido, Tuca’s Tigres sealed out the deal and won a title it had longed to hold for an eternity (29 years to be exact). Bravo to the Tigres fans, who never lost faith, and bravo to football in Mexico’s northern region, which has had the stigma of violence occurring every other day. The people deserve happiness and peace, of which are provided by futbol for 90 minutes.

The Apertura comes to an end. Players have hectic days ahead of them – Christmas and New Years celebrations. The Clausura begins soon after on January 7th, 2012, and Mexico’s northern teams will return to the pitch, trying to again finish at the top of the league.