It certainly wasn’t pretty last night. But honestly, can you blame Tigres? With Pachuca owning arguably the best midfield in the entire league in Erick Sánchez and Luis Chávez, along with their dangerous attackers in Avilés Hurtado and golden boot winner Nico Ibáñez, not to mention Tigres’ issues with red cards, the home side really had to be as orderly as a library and on their best behavior if they wished to have any chance at grabbing a lead to take back to Pachuca, where the series will ultimately close out on Sunday.
After an uneventful first half, the action started to pick up in the second. Now, in all fairness to Pachuca, they were very orderly as well. They forced Tigres to grind out every single inch on every attacking play and never allowed them to get comfortable on the pitch, despite the home side dominating action and play creation for the most part. Proof of this was arguably the play of the game, when a couple minutes into the second half, defender Mauricio André Isais jumped, risking his own safety, to block an open Lichnovksy header inside the six-yard box with his own head. That diving save deflected the ball over the goal for a corner kick. See for yourself.
His clutch dive knocked both of them to the ground and forced the medical teams on them, but that’s the intensity you look for and expect in the playoffs, and it’s also the reason why Pachuca is such a tough team to overcome.
A couple minutes later, on a Fulgencio cross to the far post, as Gignac headed the ball back toward the penalty spot looking for Pizarro, the ref blew the whistle for a PK on a supposed Luis Chávez hand ball, which upon further review with VAR, was obviously overturned, as the ball clealry never touched his hand. Again, see for yourself.
After that, the match continued in a bit of a lull like it had during the first half. But the next portion belonged to Pachuca. Generating a couple dangerous appraoches on Tigres goal, one of them ending in an Avilés Hurtado close range shot that Nahuel spectacularly kept out, Pachuca appeared to have definitely taken over. And then came Pachuca’s clearest chance of the match, when in the 73rd minute, Víctor Guzmán (who had just come on a few minutes earlier), sent a long ball that found RB Kevin Álvarez’s boots perfectly, and upon firing, his shot was met by a diving Nahuel who deflected yet another menacing approach.
But with 5 minutes plus stoppage time left in regulation, the inevitable happened. After Gustavo Cabral headed a Tigres throw-in away fro his goal, Pizarro found himself with the rebound still inside the box. Upon controlling it, he was accidentally brought down by Víctor Guzmán, despite the Argentine exaggerating his fall a bit. But he was fouled nonetheless, despite Pachuca players arguing the contrary, and a penalty kick was given.
Upon the booth confirming with ref Fernando Hernández he had indeed made the correct call, Gignac (who else?) stepped up to take the high pressure PK. A perfect execution into the top left corner gave Tigres the lead they so eagerly needed and also propelled the Frenchman further into the Liga MX history books, as that score marked his 29th career Liguilla goal, moving him past García Aspe for 3rd all-time. You can see the full sequence below.
In the end, the result is all that matters, especially at this point. The game wasn’t pretty or filled with brilliant play creation, but it was enough to get Tigres the temporary lead, at least until the series resumes in Pachuca, which is all they could’ve asked for. The bottom line is the club responded and bounced back from that ugly regular season loss to Almada and company.
The two main takeaways continue to be the same; Nahuel had a couple key saves which allowed them to claim yet another clean sheet this season (10th in 19 games), and kept them in it. A Pachuca goal would’ve changed the entire outlook on the match. And of course, the second key: Gignac. He stepped up when it counted most yet again, and cold-bloodedly put the game away when not many could’ve executed the same.
The second leg kicks off at 10:06 pm ET / 9:06 pm CT / 7:06 pm PT on Sunday in Estadio Hidalgo, which promises to be a heck of an ending to this extremely even matchup.