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Pachuca 2, Tigres 1 match report: Bye-bye Clásico Regio

The Tuzos move on to the semis to face the other Monterrey team.

Pachuca v Tigres UANL - Playoffs Torneo Apertura 2022 Liga MX Photo by Agustin Cuevas/Getty Images

In what was no doubt the closest of the four QF matchups, Pachuca and Tigres lived up to that expectation in every way. They each traded their respective punches (figuratively), both had a red card last night, both had their moments of dominance, and the score on aggregate even ended up tied 2-2. However, Pachuca are the ones moving on due to higher seeding.

The first half was largely uneventful, just like much of Thursday’s first leg. Other than Pachuca’s 19th minute opener which displayed great playmaking ability by Romario Ibarra coupled with lukewarm Tigres defending who conceded way too much space down low for a team who’s leading a QF series by just one goal, most of the half was played out in the midfield and approaches for both sides mostly ended in blocked shots, bad shot attempts / crosses, or meaningless squibbers.

To close out the half, a horrific distraction on Nahuel Guzmán’s part nearly sent Tigres down 2-0 at the break, if it wasn’t for a bad call on Fernando Guerrero’s part, who for some reason called a foul or some sort of obstruction as the keeper attempted to send the ball to his nearest defender with his hands. Nahuel didn’t see Nico Ibáñez lurking behind him and had clearly played the ball freely. Ibáñez quickly intercepted and lobbed the ball beautifully into the goal on a tough turnaround which should have been validated. A huge break for Tigres no doubt. Take a look below.

In the second half, Tigres did seize control of the match despite them not generating any real danger with it. Their approaches continued to drown out in failed cross attempts that would miss their intented targets and end disappointingly. Until the 64th minute, when Florian Thauvin’s cross found Gignac, who upon mistiming his header, ended up blooping a perfect pass to a wide open Guido Pizarro, who calmly pushed the ball in with a header just outside the six yard box, evening things at 1 and giving Tigres back the 2-1 aggregate lead.

It seemed they had regained control for good and there was no way they would let it slip this time. Wrong.

And this is where head coaching plays such a big part in matches. As soon as Pizarro’s goal happened, Guillermo Almada summoned Marino Hinestroza and Javier ‘Chofis’ López. Not two minutes had gone by, and off a Gignac free kick that went straight into Ustari’s hands, he played the ball out to Marino who was nearly at midfield waiting precisely for a counter-attack opportunity. He drove the ball all the way inside Tigres’ box and got to the byline where he diagonalled the ball back to a wide open ‘Chofis’ López, who pretty much forced the ball in with his knee / shin to give Pachuca back the lead. But a goal is a goal no matter how you score it.

Almada’s subs had an immediate impact on the match and proved why he’s become an elite manager in Liga MX today. He continued pressing high and never allowed Tigres to attack with clarity from there on out. If anything, Pachuca came closer to taking a 3-1 lead rather than Tigres tying it up again. Tigres went quietly into the night as the final whistle blew.

VAR played a significant role in this one. In the first half, a Gignac attempt that deflected off Gustavo Cabral’s outstretched arm was reviewed and correctly ruled a no-call, as Cabral got to it first and bounced it off Gignac, where it then hit the defender’s arm. But the fact he deflected it before arm contact rules out any ill intent. Five minutes later, Pizarro stepping on Érick Sánchez’s leg should’ve been a direct red and would’ve been consistent with how games were called all season. Upon review however, the ref decided it was accidental and showed him a yellow. Accident or no accident, all bets are on him being sent off had this been a regular season match. Bad job of changing rules just because it’s the playoffs.

And then of course there’s the Nahuel blunder at the end of the first half which wasn’t even reviewed by Guerrero. He simply waited until the booth confirmed his call and the match continued. Terrible officiating there as well. An objective view of these mistakes could’ve led anyone to believe Tigres were being favored by the officiating crew.

Aside from VAR, both clubs had a player correctly see a double yellow toward the end, causing the match to finish with a 10-v-10. Nothing to mention there.

In the end, Pachuca deserved the win. They attacked with more clarity and were the more orderly team out of the two. Tigres on the other hand, failed to create any clarity when attacking, sending countless bad crosses straight to Ustari and failing to utilize their most dangerous weapon (Gignac) where he’s most effective: near the box. Even the goal was an accident on a botched header by the Frenchman. Most importantly, ‘Piojo’ Herrera continues to prove he can’t coach in the playoffs. He’s a darn good regular season manager (that’s for sure), but when it comes playoff time, his attacking strategy simply comes up short, as he still doesn’t understand you must leave more than just two players back when you have a lead and a free kick in your favor. That cost him the season yesterday.

Herrera continues to regress result-wise with this squad; it’s the soonest Tigres have been eliminated under his tenure after reaching the semis in both of his first two seasons. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a coaching change before the start of next season, as Tigres’ main core of players’ window for winning a title is closing. But that being said, I don’t expect it to occur.

Pachuca will now face the other regio team in Rayados de Monterrey in the Apertura 2022 Liga MX semifinals.