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Gignac: As clutch as they come

The French striker continues to come up huge when it matters most for Tigres.

Pumas UNAM v Tigres UANL - Torneo Grita Mexico C22 Liga MX Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images

Since his arrival back in the summer of 2015, André-Pierre Gignac has proven to everyone he has a knack for the big moment. He has responded time and time again for the yellow and blue and has been responsible for a few last-minute goals, not to mention heavy involvement at the very least in many more. In other words, he possesses that ever elusive clutch gene. While there are many skilled football players around the world, it’s not easy to come by ones who can come up big in the clutch. There are only a few who do it on a consistent basis. Gignac is one of them.

With Tigres trailing 1-0 in CU on Sunday to the hands of league leader Pumas with just over 10 minutes left in regulation, Gignac found himself on the receiving end of a deflected cross that flew over the entire penalty box and reached him on the edge of the six-yard box. When many other players (and I mean MANY), would’ve hesitated and not known what to do with the ball (and probably would’ve ended up botching it in some way), the Frenchman calmly headed it over Talavera, making sure it was more than out of the keeper’s reach. The ball bounced off the post and back to the center of the six-yard box where an opportunistic “Diente” López simply kissed the ball in to the back of the net for the 1-1.

Then, into stoppage time (90 + 2nd minute to be exact), Raymundo Fulgencio, who had just come in for Nico López five minutes earlier, took the ball on the left side and into Pumas’ penalty box where he sent a diagonal pass back to (yep, you guessed it) Gignac, who attempted a left-footed shot, only to find Juan José Miguel’s cleats digging into his ankles, taking him down. All of this followed, of course, by a correct penalty call by ref Óscar Mejía. Four and a half minutes later, after VAR confirmed the foul, the penalty kick was taken by (yep, you guessed it again) Gignac. And the execution couldn’t have been any more sublime. Despite Talavera guessing it would go to his right, the shot was so potent and well located, it hit the post and went in, giving Tigres the 1-2 lead as well as their first victory of the season. Impossible to strike it any better than that as well as unstoppable for any keeper.

In other words, Gignac was heavily involved in both scores and proved he’s worth every penny for the Monterrey-based club. It also proves why Tigres lost the semifinal to León last season. With the match under control, Miguel Herrera decided to take Gignac off in the 75th minute in favor of the aforementioned Fulgencio. The second that sub occurred, Tigres lost complete control of the match, as they became unable to have any sort of ball possession, allowing León to create more dangerous and longer-lasting attacks, resulting in Ángel Mena’s goal which ultimately eliminated Tigres that night.

The reason Gignac is a part of this squad is specifically for these kinds of moments. While he may not be a goal-scoring machine every single season, he is what his team needs him to be. And you can’t put a price on that. He can score, become a passer and distribute the ball, send in effective / dangerous crosses, and even defend with intensity. That’s more than you can ask of your leader and franchise player. There’s no way Herrera can ever take him off at a critical time in a match again. And Sunday, he simply reminded us all of that.