Thanks to Cruz Azul botching their 1-0 advantage in the final five minutes of their match vs. Pumas by allowing Dinneno to get on the scoresheet twice on Saturday night, had either Rayados or Tigres found a way to take the three points from their match, they would’ve clinched the fourth and final first-round bye spot. Instead, Rayados falling to Chivas, along with Tigres allowing a last-minute goal to Atlas defender Germán Conti to level the score at 1 a piece, granted Cruz Azul the opportunity to remain with that 4th spot.
In the 5:00 slot, Rayados visited Chivas, in what meant a chance for Chivas to play the wild-card round with home-field advantage. However, a red-hot Monterrey rolled into town with four consecutive wins, poised to make it five, including a first-round bye. And thanks to Avilés Hurtado’s header in the 35th minute, Rayados appeared to be well on their way to that, despite Chivas gaining momentum as the game went on. It had that feel to it where Chivas were just not going to break through.
And then, in the 75th minute, came the play of the match. Maxi Meza sent a beautiful through ball that found Janssen’s left foot, which the wide-open Dutch star connected straight to the post. No excuse there, as that ball should’ve been put away. Rayados allowed Vucetich’s (or Almaguer’s in this case) Chivas to live, and just five minutes later, Zaldívar evened things up. Not long after, Vega and Ángulo followed, topping off another disappointment for Mohamed and his crew, and sent them to the playoffs with many doubts regarding this team’s legitimate shot at a title.
Immediately ensuing, in the 7:00 time slot, it was high-flying Tigres playing hosts to already eliminated Atlas, who despite drastic improvement following Diego Cocca’s appointment, were still unable to secure a wild-card round position. After winning five straight matches (and going undefeated for seven), Tuca’s Tigres finally fell in Round 16 to fellow title-contenders América. Despite that, all they needed was to hold their own in a match where they were vast favorites over an extremely limited and inconsistent squad. Not to mention, playing at home.
Thanks to a right-footed rocket to the near post by Chaka Rodríguez in the 39th minute, Tigres, just like Rayados had, took a comfortable 1-0 lead. As the match progressed, the yellow and blue had multiple chances to increase their lead, with the clearest coming in the 84th minute, when Gignac tapped the ball masterfully to league-revelation “Diente” López, who took the ball at full speed from midfield, only to botch the wide open shot which would’ve indeed put the game away. Instead, Atlas were afforded extra life, and made Tigres pay for it in the 5th minute of stoppage time, pulling even on a free-kick header by Conti.
Let’s look at the similarities between these two; both Rayados and Tigres took leads in their matches around the same instance. They both led their matches with 10 minutes remaining plus stoppage time. Both had a clear opportunity to extend their 1-0 lead and secure victory for their squad, as well as a first-round bye. Both ended up paying for their sin of not putting the game away when granted the opportunity. In the end, a very disappointing finish by both ‘Regio’ squads, as they looked poised to grab a top-4 spot, and should’ve, considering their squad payrolls.
Now, both will get a home match in the wild-card round, with 5th placed Rayados facing Puebla, and 6th placed Tigres squaring off against Toluca. Despite both being favorites, they will now run the risk of having to win their single-elimination matchups in a couple of weeks. While Rayados did overcome Puebla by a 3-1 final in their Round 14 fixture just three weeks ago, it’s worth noting Tigres fell to Toluca in La Bombonera back in Round 5 by a final of 3-2.