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Tigres prevail in thrilling CCL semifinal first leg

A come from behind win is what it took for Siboldi’s team to take a slim advantage back to León.

Tigres v Leon - CONCACAF Champions League 2023 Photo by Alfredo Lopez/Jam Media/Getty Images

This game was what it’s all about when it comes to watching football really. The ultimate expectation of watching a back and forth match where both clubs create enough danger to put up multiple scores on their opponent. And that’s exactly what we got last night in the Estadio Universitario with Tigres and León opening up their CONCACAF Champions League semifinals series.

The first half’s final three minutes were all it took to settle this one. Behind 0-1 after a superb Víctor Dávila strike early in the game, Tigres turned it around. First, a good cross into the box by Quiñones that found Córdova who calmly put his foot on it to one-bounce it home, followed by a huge León defensive letdown in the box off a Samir header that fell to a wide open Quiñones who put too much on it for Cota to have any chance.

While it’s true the entire game was exciting, the first half was simply phenomenal. Nahuel was forced to make 4 key saves in the first half hour of play (one of those on a sublime bicycle kick by Elías Hernández that had goal written all over it). Gignac missed a lob attempt on a 1-on-1 with Cota. The Frenchman then missed two unforgivable headers (one inside the six-yard box with a beaten Cota). Leon’s keeper also stopped a key wide open Quiñones attempt. And then came the goals. In other words, at least 4 clear-cut opportunities for each side that didn’t end in a goal. Not to mention, the 2-1 score at the half.

The second 45 picked up right where we left off with Gignac hitting a wide open attempt from the middle of the box right to León’s diving keeper. But things started to slow down a bit after that, as one would expect of course. The visitors had a couple more opportunities; one of them a shot that just whistled by Tigres’ post and the other yet one more big save by Nahuel; I know... what’s new, right?

The reason I go over all of these chances is for the simple fact we rarely see a game with so many dangerous approaches on goal, especially between Liga MX clubs. It was refreshing to see, but more importantly, hypes up the second leg of the series which takes place next Wednesday in the Nou Camp. The winner of this series will move on to face the winner of LAFC and Philadelphia Union in the final.

This was a very much needed victory for Tigres confidencewise. In league competition, they were losers of 4 straight, followed by a draw with Querétaro and a narrow 1-0 home victory over Puebla a week ago today. In the CCL, two draws against Orlando City and a series win over a limited Motagua squad didn’t do much to help fuel that department.

This team was thirsty for a big win, and they got it Tuesday night by defeating the 6th overall spot in the league table. This win should do them wonders moving forward, with Liga MX playoffs but a week away and one game standing between them and the CCL final. Some would say this win couldn’t have come at a better time.

For León, it’s time to regroup and come out firing next week, as they’ve seen the damage they can cause Siboldi’s club. The issue for them won’t be scoring so much as holding Gignac and company in check in a match where they’ll be forced to go forward, hence creating lanes for Tigres to attack. An interesting second leg awaits next Wednesday.