Here your five conclusions from the Quarterfinals of the 2017 Liga MX Clausura.
Tigres earn crushing victory over rivals Monterrey
If you thought Tigres weren’t at their best to start this Liguilla, they are now. This ranked among one of the best two-legged series in Tigres history, as they crushed rivals Monterrey 6-1 on aggregate.
Tigres have lost just once in their last eight league games, and as ever, Andre-Pierre Gignac was the decisive figure in these quarterfinals, scoring four of Tiges’ six goals. It was a crucial contribution from the frenchman, who had struggled with Cesar Montes’ man-marking in previous Clasico Regiomontanos.
With the victory, Tigres chalked up their first ever series win over Monterrey in a Liguilla. Moreover, they showed evidence that when they are at their most dangerous, nobody can stop them.
Monterrey unable to trouble Tigres as they fail again
If this were a game where Antonio “Turco” Mohamed was playing for his job, he may not have one next season. The Argentine manager signed a contract extension prior to the start of the Liguilla, but this scarcely proof that he deserved it. Monterrey have picked up good results under the manager, but they have hardly looked as ruthless as their neighbors. It is even arguable that the squad has benefited little from his tactics in recent months and has even divided the locker room more than unite it.
Given Monterrey’s aspirations and the talent they have available in their ranks, they should want more. Losing 6-1 to your biggest rivals in a quarterfinal and showing very little ambition in the process is not a good look for Mohamed.
Mohamed has the distinction of winning league titles with both Xolos de Tijuana and Club America, and he came close a year ago in the 2016 Clausura. But after Saturday, his contract extension is simply looking like a bad piece of business.
Santos Laguna rue first-leg absences
The majority of Liga MX fans were sympathetic to Santos Laguna’s energetic second leg performance on Saturday. The Guerreros arrived to the Estadio Nemesio Diez needing to win by four goals to have any chance to progress to the semifinals, and you get the feeling that if it weren’t for Alfredo Talavera, things might have actually gone their way. Ultimately, Santos crashed out to Toluca on a 5-4 aggregate scoreline, falling two goals short of the objective.
The key to this tie might have been Santos Laguna’s first leg absences. Coincidentally, Santos and Toluca faced off in the very last week of the regular season, in a match that resulted in the sending offs of Djaniny Taveres and Walter Gael Sandoval. This proved costly for coach Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre, who had to make adjustments to replace arguably two of his most important attacking players. Without Djaniny and Sandoval, Santos were a completely different team in the first leg, and Toluca took full advantage by thrashing the Guerreros 4-1.
Of course, nobody likes to be eliminated in the first round of the Liguilla, but if there is some silver lining it is that Santos Laguna showed their potency this season. Under Chepo, Santos has one of the most sophisticated and well-worked systems in all of Mexico, and with the team being one of the youngest in all of the league, they are only sure to get better next season.
Chivas punish conservative Atlas side
Atlas got what they deserved. They came out 1-0 winners in the first leg after an imperious performance from their defenders, but their second leg performance was the type that made you wonder why the coach decided to play the way he did. It wasn’t exactly rocket science. Despite having an advantage in the aggregate scoreline, it would have been reasonable for Atlas to stick to their initial game plan an go in search of an away goal. After all, an Atlas away goal would have forced Chivas to score two goals. Instead, coach José Guadalupe Cruz planted a defensive formation and it proved costly for the Rojinegros.
Cruz’s desicion to bench star forward Matias Alustiza was especially contentious considering that Atlas’ best chances fell to back-up center back Jaine Barreiro off set-pieces. Atlas might even have won it as Chivas were once again woeful in their finishing from open play, their only goal of the series arriving from a corner.
Speaking of Chivas, they need their key players back from injury as quickly as possible. They got the job done this time around, but things are only going to get tougher in the semifinals.
Monarcas Morelia’s fairy tale season comes to an end
Go back to last week when Raul Ruidiaz scored in the 92nd minute to help Monarcas Morelia go from relegated to making the Liguilla. Among other things, the game had vast consequences, eliminating Club America and also giving Raul Ruidiaz the scoring title.
Fast forward to Sunday and things didn’t pan out quite the way Morelia fans and some neutrals expected. First seed Xolos de Tijuana bounced back from a first leg defeat to beat Morelia 2-1 on aggregate. In short, Monarcas Morelia were simply just not good enough. As coach Roberto Hernandez said at the end of the series, this team was built to avoid the drop, not win the title. This showed, especially after Ruidiaz missed the second leg through injury.
Xolos, on the other hand, will no doubt have learned from this series. Their next opponent is none other than Tigres. Coach Miguel Herrera declared his players ready, but it is worth mentioning a second time, if there is one team playing like champions right now it is Tigres.