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Tigres lose to Cruz Azul but still qualify to semifinals

Cruz Azul defeats Tigres 1-0, but Tigres’ win in the first leg was enough to give them the ticket to the semifinals.

Cruz Azul v Tigres UANL - Playoffs Torneo Grita Mexico C22 Liga MX Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images

Cruz Azul was able get a 1-0 win against Tigres but wasn’t able to get the necessary goals to overcome Tigres’ 1-0 win in the first leg, and the Monterrey side was able to get their ticket to the semifinals. An early goal and more importantly a red card were tough hurdles that Tigres had to overcome to maintain the match at 1-0, and they wound up tying on aggregate which gave Tigres the win because of their better regular season record. Tigres will now face Atlas, and they will have to improve against the defending champion if they want to get to the final.

The first half started with Cruz Azul coming out with a change at forward, benching Ivan Morales for Santiago Gimenez, and also starting with Angel Romero. Tigres came out with their normal lineup and with the good news that injured Florian Thauvin was able to be on the bench. Off of a corner kick, Tigres came close to scoring before Cruz Azul goalkeeper Sebastian Jurado was able to clear the ball. Then off of a terrible mistake by a Tigres defense in which a pass was deflected by Gimenez into the area, Hugo Ayala left the ball in the area so Christian Tabo could come in and get off a right footed shot past Tigres’ goalkeeper Nahuel Guzman for the 1-0 lead. Cruz Azul was now one goal away from getting the ticket to the semifinals. After the ball got into the area, Juan Pablo Vigon got a great chance from close range but his shot was brilliantly saved by Jurado. Tigres started to control possession and got a good chance when Andre-Pierre Gignac got a shot off that was blocked by a defender. Off of a corner kick, the ball was left for Carlos Gonzalez to get off a left footed shot but it was blocked. Then after a ball went out of play, Cruz Azul’s coach Juan Reynoso didn’t give the ball immediately and got a red card just as Miguel Herrera had in the previous match. Then a minute later, a slide tackle by Javier Aquino right into the leg of Romero had the referee called over to the VAR booth. After seeing the play there, he red carded Aquino, complicating things for Tigres, who would have just ten players to protect the slim lead in the next 45 minutes.

The second half started with Tigres subbing out Juan Pablo Vigon for Igor Lichnovsky, in a purely defensive move. Cruz Azul had a great opportunity when Gimenez got past his defender and got a left footed shot that went past Guzman but hit the post. Cruz Azul subbed out Christian Tabo for Ivan Morales. Tigres meanwhile subbed out Carlos Gonzalez for Yeferson Soteldo. Tigres had a great chance when Jesus Dueñas got off a great shot from outside the area, but Jurado came up with another big save. Cruz Azul missed a great chance when Morales got the ball in the area and got off a left footed shot, but while it got past Guzman it too hit the post. The ball went back to Morales, but he headed the ball wide, missing an incredible chance. Cruz Azul then subbed out Juan Escobar for Alejandro Mayorga. Cruz Azul kept having the ball, but they couldn’t quite create much. Tigres subbed out Hugo Ayala for Juan Purata. It looked like Tigres had quit trying for a goal and were just trying to hold on to a Cruz Azul. Meanwhile Cruz Azul had all of the possession but a lack of ideas, a constant with the team. It looked like Cruz Azul came close when Romero found a Cruz Azul attacker, but his shot was saved by Guzman. Cruz Azul subbed out Erik Lira for Pablo Aguilar. Soteldo almost ended the series when he got the ball in the area, but his left footed shot was brilliantly saved by Jurado. Cruz Azul had another chance when a cross into the area was cleared by Guzman, but Luis Quiñones was able to clear it. It was the last opportunity and although Cruz Azul won the match, it wasn’t enough to get the ticket and Tigres qualified to the semifinals.

Tigres had to struggle mightily to get their ticket to the semifinals. After being the superior side in Mexico City, Tigres allowed a goal and then went down to ten players against a Cruz Azul side that had a couple of chances to get the win, but their season long struggles continued. Tigres complicated things for themselves on the evening, and they will need to improve against an Atlas side that looks to be the most prepared and well coached team left. Atlas will almost certainly also be more dangerous than Cruz Azul. Cruz Azul had the chances to go through, but overall suffered from their lack of offensive ideas. While they are unlucky to have hit the post twice, the fact is that they lacked ideas and once again they failed to take advantage of having an extra player just like the secind leg of their CONCACAF Champions League Semifinal against Pumas. Coach Juan Reynoso’s job might be in trouble, although Cruz Azul overall didn’t have a bad season. Tigres has the squad to be the favorite for the title, but the way the went through and how especially America and Atlas went through may mean they will have to improve a lot to be back as the favorite for the title.