The hottest player currently as well as top difference-maker, or at least over the past two matches for Tigres is no way in question. The answer is straight and simple: Nico López. Yesterday, ‘El Diente’ shined even more than he did this past Sunday (when he scored two goals). He scored twice again, accounting for Tigres’ only scores of the match, and should’ve gotten a hattrick had it not been for the outstretched arms of Axel Werner.
After an expected start to the match in San Luis last night, Tigres dominated ball possession and chance creation (including a Carlos González header that Werner deflected off the crossbar), an erred pass attempt by Gignac in the 24th minute saw Atleti break for a counter. It’s worth pointing out that there wasn’t any apparent danger, as Tigres had four defenders back, while Atleti only had a couple players in a forward position, with two others at midfield with the ball - one of them Juan “Coque” Castro - who after a quick glance at a way out in front Nahuel, launched a midfield line missile that single-bounced its way into the back of the net for the San Luis 1-0 lead. Guzmán wasn’t even close to reaching it.
Ten minutes later, immediately ensuing a great Nico López cross which Gignac calmly controlled and fired on goal, ultimately resulting in a Tigres corner, Quiñones found Gignac again, who just outside the penalty box, sent a perfect through ball to Aquino, who upon quickly scanning the box, picked out a wide open López, who first faked a shot, followed by a deflection that found its way up and over Werner for the 1-1 tie.
After continued ball possession domination by Ferretti’s side with no real danger created, 15 minutes in to the second half, Carioca lobbed a cross to the far corner, where Gignac’s brilliant game reading took over, as he one touched a pass back to the middle of the box only to find a wide open Nico López firing off a left-footed cannon that got past a diving Werner yet again. And just 5 minutes later, López again fired a left-footed crossed shot that Werner barely reached to prevent López’s hattrick, as well as putting the game out of reach. Tigres’ depth with ‘El Diente’ on the pitch is more than obvious.
And then, for the second consecutive match (as well as they did for a few matches in a row last season), Tigres allowed a goal in stoppage time, specifically the 90th + 3’ minute yesterday, as San Luis sent a desperation, last gasp cross into the box which was somehow won by Nico Ibáñez, sending the ball gliding over a confused Nahuel, who isn’t fully to blame for this one, but does share some. Guzmán was clearly moving backward when the ball flew over him. Had he been standing on the goal-line (as he should’ve, having no chance to intercept that cross), he more than likely would’ve been able to deflect the lazy hanging header. Instead, it was out of his reach (again), and saw Atleti even things up at 2, ending in both teams sharing a point.
While Nahuel has come up clutch in most important matches, he’s also been very known for making bonehead plays, such as the ones he made last night, especially in the first goal. Without discrediting “Coque” in any way (who really did launch a missile), there’s simply no excuse for the keeper being that far out from his goal. That score should’ve never happened in the first place. By no means is Nahuel’s starting spot in danger because of this, but it is important to point out when mistakes are made, and Nahuel’s yesterday cost Tigres the W.
With the result, both clubs sit tight at 11 points (league table - Atleti 7th, Tigres 8th), but Tigres do have that pending match with FC Juárez to be made up in mid-April. Nico López has also put his name in the running for top scorer, as he is now tied for 3rd with 4 netbusters in just 204 minutes of total action this season. (He’s almost averaging a goal per half played!) I wouldn’t worry about the points coming back to haunt Tigres, as they should be in the conversation for the top seeds, considering they’re not in this year’s edition of the CONCACAF CL, meaning they can focus solely on the league competition. Up next for San Luis is a visit to the Estadio Jalisco where they’ll meet league-worst Atlas. Tigres, on the other hand, head home to host Toluca. Both matches will be played on Tuesday night as we play out our first and only midweek round of the season.