An injury time goal gave Atlas an incredible ticket to the Liga MX final for consecutive seasons in a 4-2 loss against Tigres. Tigres made a monumental comeback from a 3-0 loss in the first leg to a 4-4 tie that seemingly gave them the ticket to the Final before a penalty in injury time gave the current champions the ticket instead. Yet the victory only prevented an even crazier finish, as Tigres had violated Liga MX rules by having nine foreign players on the field after they subbed in French midfielder Florian Thauvin at halftime for Mexican defender Hugo Ayala. Atlas is once again in the final, although their display in the second half will give players and fans a lot of worries in the final as they await the winner of the Pachuca-America series.
The first half started with Tigres coming out with almost the same lineup as in the first leg, with the return of the suspended Javier Aquino as they needed to get goals. Atlas came with the same lineup and even with Anderson Santamaria, who had left the first leg match with an injury to his face. Tigres started to control the ball, but Atlas had some good counters which lead to corner kicks that were wasted. A cross into the area found Guido Pizarro, but his header went well wide, missing a good opportunity. After a good counter, Julio Furch got past his defender and went on a one-on-one against the keeper, but took his shot too early and it went wide, wasting an incredible chance. Minutes later defender Emanuel Aguilera looked to have injured himself, and he would have to come out as he cursed and stomped as Gaddi Aguirre was subbed in for him. The game started to get a little physical, as Atlas continued to handle Tigres well. Off of a free kick, Andre-Pierre Gignac got off a shot that forced Atlas’ goalkeeper Camilo Vargas to make a great save. Then just prior to halftime, a a great play by Atlas finished with Luis Reyes getting a great pass into the area that found Julian Quiñones, who got a right footed shot past Tigres’ goalkeeper Nahuel Guzman for the 1-0 lead in the game and making it 4-0 on aggregate. Atlas virtually sealed the series, as Tigres now had to score four goals in the second half and with Vargas only having to do a single save, it didn’t look likely at all. The halftime whistle blew and Atlas looked to have ended things.
The second half started with Tigres subbing out defender Hugo Ayala for attacker Florian Thauvin, as they needed goals and a lot of them. After a good cross by Thauvin, Gignac lowered the ball and got off a great shot that forced Vargas to make a good save. Later after a good play by Yeferson Sotledo, he found Gignac who was brought down in the area and a penalty kick was given to Tigres. Andre-Pierre Gignac took the penalty and with a right footed shot scored it past Vargas for the 1-1 equalizer, making it 4-1 on aggregate. Tigres continued to look for a goal and after a great play by Luis Quiñones getting past Anibal Chala, he sent a cross into the area and Carlos Gonzalez missed it, however Andre-Pierre Gignac got off a great volley past Vargas for the 2-1 lead in the match and making it 4-2 on aggregate. Gignac had gotten Tigres back into the series. Off a corner kick, the ball fell in the area but Luis Quiñones’ close range shot went well wide. Tigres then subbed out an injured Gonzalez for Nicolas Lopez. Atlas wasted a great chance when Julian Quiñones had a one-on=one, but his shot went well wide in a great opportunity to kill the match. Atlas subbed out Julio Furch for Jeremy Marquez. Then after a long ball into the area, Lopez fell and claimed he was pushed. Referee Cesar Ramos went to VAR but would not call a penalty. Minutes later Lopez once again fall into the area and was yellow carded for diving. Ramos once again went to VAR after that, and the replays showed that Santamaria tripped him and he called a penalty and took back the yellow card. Once more Gignac took the penalty and scored it past Vargas to make it 3-1 in the game and 4-3 for Atlas on aggregate. Tigres had all of the momentum, and Gignac took a great shot that was miraculously saved by Vargas. The game turned into one of the most exciting in memory, as Tigres now had pushed Atlas completely into their area. Atlas subbed out Anibal Chala for Diego Barbosa. Then after a cross into the area that ball was headed back to Thauvin, who got off a cross that was headed into the area and fell to Igor Lichnovsky. Lichnovsky then headed the ball past Vargas for the 4-1 lead in the match and drawing the aggregate even at 4-4. Tigres now was going through to the next round if the score held up in an historic comeback for Tigres. Atlas now needed the goal, and had taken out key players on offense like Furch. A longball into the area could have been and should have been connected by Luis Reyes, but he decided to switch to his left foot and thus the ball was cleared. Tigres subbed out injured Yeferson Soteldo for Juan Pablo Vigon. A scuffle started to happen and it looked like Aquino hit an Atlas player in the face, but nothing was called. Thauvin got a great cross into the area that Gignac just failed to connect with very well, allowing Vargas to easily get it. Rumors started around the internet that Tigres had nine foreign players on the field, which would disallow the result. A great counter was finished with Thauvin lobbing the ball over the keeper but wide. Then after the ball went into the area, Aldo Rocha looked to have been pushed down by Jesus Alberto Angulo although nothing was called. Replays showed that it looked like a penalty and the referee went to VAR. After a brief review, he gave Atlas a penalty kick. Aldo Rocha stepped up to take the penalty as Guzman started to cry in the field, which forced the ref to tell him to get into place and to stop it. Rocha stepped up to take it and with a right footed shot scored the goal to make it 4-2 in the match and give Atlas the 5-4 lead on aggregate. As the match continued, Nahuel Guzman wound up throwing a second ball into play and got his second yellow card of the match and thus a red. Without a goalkeeper, Atlas was able to hold on during the final seconds and qualify in a game that is the best representation of the craziness of Mexican football.
If there ever was a game that showcased the surrealism of Liga MX, it was played in Monterrey this Saturday night. A crazy series that looked to be over at halftime, then was a complete 180 with Tigres coming back after a spirited play and a terrible job from the referee Cesar Ramos only for a violation of a rule. This would have given Atlas the pass before they actually accomplished it on the field. Tigres fought hard, but their terrible display in Guadalajara and then the terrible job from Coach Miguel Herrera, who might have given Atlas the semifinals pass from his ignorance of the rules in that moment. Atlas was coming in as the best team in the Liguilla, but their display where they allowed Tigres to completely dominate them and were minutes away from going out had Tigres not done that terrible mistake with the lineup and conceded a penalty in stoppage. Atlas will now wait for the winners of the Pachuca-America series, as they see which rival they will play and where they will play. If Pachuca wins, they close out in Pachuca but if America wins, they once again close out in Guadalajara. Meanwhile, neutral fans everywhere saw all of the highs and lows of Mexican football in a match that will go down in the pages of craziness in which sports, and almost everything in life in Mexico, is written.