Tigres left it late, but were able to come back and get a 2-1 win at home over Leon in the first leg of the Apertura 2021 Semifinals. Tigres dominated that match and should have won by a bigger score, but they almost didn’t get the win. Tigres went down 1-0 before two very late goals allowed them to get the victory. Tigres will now be in the driver’s seat in the return match, as a tie would give Tigres the ticket to the final although a win by Leon by any score would give it to Leon as they hold the tiebreaker.
The first half started with a Tigres team that was going to try to make their mark at home, but would have to do so without the injured Guido Pizarro. After a couple of early minutes where Tigres had the ball, Leon almost had a great counter when a pass found a wide open Angel Mena, but Tigres’ goalkeeper Nahuel Guzman went way out of the area and blocked it. On replays however it looked like Mena was offside. The referee took a lot of time to look at the play at VAR and call the offside call. Tigres then had their first chance when after a good run, Andre Pierre Gignac got a great shot from outside the area that forced Leon’s goalkeeper Rodolfo Cota to make a great save. Minutes later Nicolas Lopez got off a left footed shot from outside the area forcing Cota to make another great save. Tigres wasted a great chance when Leon lost the ball allowing Luis “Chaka” Rodriguez a great opportunity, but he got into the area and although he dribbled past Cota, he lost the ball and then got a forced shot that was deflected by William Tesillo off the line. Tigres was dominating the match, as Leon defended and hoped for a counter attack. Tigres wasted another great chance when Leon lost the ball again just outside the area, but Lopez inexplicably got off a left footed shot instead of one with his right foot and predictably it went just wide. A good cross from Luis Quiñones almost proved to be real dangerous, but Cota was able to slap it away. Tigres had another chance when Javier Aquino got off a left footed shot that was saved by Cota. After the save Leon got a counter attack, which was finished with a left footed shot from Angel Mena that hit the post in Leon’s best opportunity of the match. Tigres then wasted another chance when after a pass, Juan Pablo Vigon got a wide open right footed shot from inside the area but it went just wide. The halftime whistle blew and incredibly Tigres wasn’t leading and the match remained scoreless.
The second half started with Leon subbing out Santiago Ormeño and Omar Fernandez for Jose Ramirez and Jean Meneses. Seconds into the half, Tigres had two chances that were blocked by Leon’s defenders. Tigres looked to have scored after a one-on-one between Lopez and Cota finished with the Tigres’ attacker, but he was correctly ruled to have been offside. Gignac then made a good play and got a shot off that forced Cota to make a great save. Then against the run of play after an attack, Jean Meneses took Tigres and Guzman by surprise and got off a great left footed shot when everybody was expecting a cross to score and get the 1-0 lead for the visitors. Tigres tried to get back into the match, but now they needed to get the goal since a tie aggregate score would eliminate them. Tigres subbed out Juan Pablo Vigon and Juan Jose Sanchez for Florian Thauvin and Carlos Gonzalez. Meneses then came close again when a left footed shot went just wide. Tigres had a chance when Gonzalez got a shot from outside the area that went just wide. After slipping, Meneses went down and looked to be injured. Leon subbed out Santiago Colombatto for Fidel Ambriz. Although Meneses was able to continue, now it was Victor Davila who looked injured. Meanwhile Tigres subbed out Nicolas Lopez for Jesus Dueñas. Davila was then able to get back on, and minutes later he got the ball in the area and got off a left footed shot that hit the post. Leon then subbed out Victor Davila (who came off limping) and Angel Mena for Emmanuel Gigliotti and Luis Montes. Tigres subbed out Luis Quiñones for Leonardo Fernandez. Off a cross into the area, Cota came off and blocked the shot right into Gignac, but the ball bounced off of him and he wasn’t able to reach it before Leon’s defense cleared the ball, in what would have been a sure goal had he been able to. Then after a cross into the area, the ball was lowered by Rodriguez and Florian Thauvin made a great semi bicycle volley to get his left footed shot past Cota for the 1-1 equalizer. Tigres then went all out to get the winning goal, while Leon held for dear life. Then after a cross into the area, once again the ball was lowered by Gignac and Carlos Gonzalez got a left footed shot past Cota for the 2-1 game winner. Tigres had battled back in the final minutes to do something they should have done earlier: scoring. Leon could have gotten a chance after a free kick but the ball went wide off a shot from Gigliotti. It was the last one, and Tigres got the valuable tie for the return leg.
Tigres got a key victory, but the fans will be relieved of what would have been a terrible result after dominating the match. Tigres had numerous chances, but a great game by Cota and a bad game from their attackers meant that Leon had the opportunity to take the lead and almost went back to Leon with the three points. Tigres though got a deserved win and will now have the advantage against a Leon team that will have to look for the win from the start. Leon will need to improve defensively and with Tigres having more weapons to counter, they might not be favored to get the win although they were well prepared at times to maintain their lead, so an early lead at home will be tough for Tigres to bounce back off. Yet right now Tigres have done their job and will be heavily favored to get to the final where they will probably part as favorites against either Atlas or Pumas. Leon would look to have the last word as they attempt to take that ticket on Saturday.