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Have Cruz Azul sentenced their QF series with Tigres?

La Máquina will take a 3-1 aggregate lead into the second leg match in the Estadio Azteca on Sunday night

Tigres UANL v Cruz Azul - Playoffs Torneo Guard1anes 2020 Liga MX Photo by Alfredo Lopez/Jam Media/Getty Images

After having suffered an unfortunate 3-1 blow at home last night in their QF first leg vs. Cruz Azul, Tigres are now forced to head to Mexico City and defeat La Máquina by a 3-goal difference if they wish to move on to the Semi-Finals, a feat nobody would argue is very improbable at this point. The strange part is, with the flow of last night’s game, in no way was Cruz Azul deserving of such a result. Tigres dominated the action and ball possession, generating many more opportunities throughout the match and simply being unable to capitalize. And that is, of course, the main point in football; it’s not who deserves it most, it’s who scores the most goals.

Now, we know stats definitely don’t favor Tuca Ferretti’s squad. Since the shortened seasons were established back in the mid-90s, Cruz Azul have won the first leg of their series 11 times, out of which they’ve advanced on nine of them, only allowing their rival to complete the comeback a total of two times. Tigres, on the other hand, have lost the first leg of a playoff series six times. Five of those, they were finished off. It’s worth noting, the only time they came back was back in 2005 after losing to América 3-1, only to give way to the famous ‘Aztecazo’, in which, against all odds, they stuck it to the Águilas by a final of 4-1 to move on to face Rayados in the Semi-Finals. Coincidence?

Without discrediting Cruz Azul from their great result obtained last night in any way, one must look at the facts. Juan Escobar’s shot was deflected, and because of that, was out of Nahuel’s reach. Then, after Tigres had deservedly evened the score at 1 on Pizarro’s header, an embarrassing mistimed play by Diego Reyes allowed “Cabecita” to be left wide-open, and after a couple of good moves to create space, he put the ball away to help Cruz Azul retake the lead. Tuca was so fumed, he subbed Reyes out 10 minutes later for Jesús Dueñas. Finally, the third goal came on an extremely lazy defensive effort on the part of Tigres’ defense, topped off by Chaka’s bewilderment, as he let go of Romo for some totally inexcusable reason. Let’s be real, this is an elite defense who along with Cruz Azul, conceded the second fewest goals in the league (16).

Those mistakes will be hard to come by on a consistent basis from Tigres. However, if anyone doubts this team has the firepower to come back and reclaim this series, they should look again; they were tied with León as the third highest ranked offense in the league (27 goals), and that’s not hard to believe, when you consider their leader, Gignac, followed by Quiñones, Leo Fernández (who wasn’t even played last night), Aquino, and of course, this season’s revelation, “Diente” López. The offense is there, and the defense usually is as well. I’m guessing Diego Reyes won’t play on Sunday, but after what we saw from Hugo Ayala vs. Toluca, the defense could be up for grabs at this point.

If this Tigres team is known for anything, it’s their grittiness and intensity, which they usually never seem to lack, no matter what the score is. Tuca will have his players ready. And Siboldi is too smart to believe he has this series in the bag, and will come out with respect for Tigres. The question is, with how much respect? If Cruz Azul make the mistake to retreat all lines and just allow Tigres to take complete initiative from the start while they look to counterattack, they may have lost this series already. With a great match in store Sunday night, the winner of this matchup should in all likeliness face León in the semis, if they can find their way around 12th placed Puebla of course.