A brace by Gignac sends Tigres to their fifth final

SAN NICOLÁS DE LOS GARZA | Tuesday, April 5, 2016.- How could we not celebrate, how could we not feel that we are Tigres when the team, playing with just ten men, wins with two goals by André-Pierre Gignac to earn their ticket to the Concacaf Champions League to play their fifth final in a period of just 24 months…. Today the felines showed what they are made of on the pitch.

Tigres fought for over 82 minutes, during which they were able to recover from Jesús Dueñas being sent off and position themselves better on the field, to play their hearts out and show that the current Liga MX Champion is alive and kicking and out to win yet another title.

Apart from the Concacaf Final, in the past 24 months Tigres can boast two League, one Cup and one Libertadores Cup finals, making it clear that this team is armed and ready to fight for the top titles and make history.

Right from when Roberto García, the referee, blew the kick-off whistle Tigres took control of the match, performing their traditional horizontal, continuous-touch play until they achieved the position for an opportunity up front to send the ball into the net.

Javier Aquino almost got the first goal after only four minutes of play, in a center from Jesús Dueñas that hit the second post and was caught on the rebound by the Oaxacan player with a header that went just wide of Querétaro’s goal.

The felines’ advancements were led by Jesús Dueñas and Guido Pizarro, who constantly relied on Jürgen Damm and Aquino along the touchlines, seeking the opportunity to penetrate the opponent’s goal area. In fact, one of these opportunities gave the ball to Rafael Sobis on 10’ who attempted a shot from a distance, though it missed the mark.

At that moment, Querétaro arranged themselves better and controlled the advance of Tigres, who was finding it hard to reach the last third of the field. As a result, the game moved more to the middle zone, making any opportunities unviable.

Neither team was willing to take any risks, making short passes and preventing any advancement from the midfield. Time and time again, Tigres crashed into the defensive wall built by Querétaro, knowing that a goalless draw would send them to extra time.

Play continued in this manner until minute 42, when André-Pierre Gignac attempted a mid-distance shot, though the linesman put a stop to this opportunity by flagging for offside. The match finished 0-0 at half time.

The second half started with the same men as in the first, but in the very first minute, Gignac’s remarkable scissors kick, taken from a center by Sobis,  went over the bar.

The felines seemed to have come out with determination, so much so that at minute 48, Dueñas had the clearest opportunity of the match in a great play by Aquino that left him alone in front of the net, but the reserve hit the ball badly, sending it wide.

The control of the match was one-sided, on Tigres’ side, and at the 53-minute mark Édgar Benítez gave the felines their first scare with a shot that missed Nahuel Guzmán’s goal.

At 60’, Tigres was awarded a direct free kick, taken by Juninho, though it went easily into the hands of Querétaro’s goalkeeper, Tiago Volpi, but Tigres continued trying with ever more resolve, with Aquino becoming the man to take the most risks and generate danger..

Seven minutes later, Guido Pizarro surged forward with the ball well under control from the midfield, brushing past players at the entrance to the area and took a shot, though the ball was unable to go into the net since it lacked precision, but this play was enough to get the Tigres fans, the ‘Incomparables’, leaping out of their seats.

Ricardo Ferretti decided at 69’ to make the first adjustment in the lineup, taking Damm out and sending Damián Álvarez on, so Aquino moved to the right flank and ‘Enano’ to the left, in an endeavor to open up the field more.

Nevertheless, two minutes later, Dueñas was given a second yellow card for holding Benítez when he went into the area and was sent off, leaving Tuca’s team with just ten men and 19 minutes left on the clock, forcing him to make a tactical adjustment by moving Sobis back to the midfield and leaving Gignac alone at the front.

Tigres was not intimidated and at 79’ Aquino entered the area after a pass and just as he was preparing to score, two men came in to sweep the ball but knocked him down in the area, resulting in a call for a penalty though the sweep was aimed at the ball first.

Despite being one man down, Tigres never stopped taking risks, generating dangerous approaches and seeking a goal opportunity, once more with a highly participative Aquino and superb action from Pizarro.

This pressure led the felines to score the first goal of the match in a great play by Israel Jiménez who fought to the end, recovered and passed with a back-heel to Sobis, who went in alone and his diagonal kick landed at Gignac’s feet, with the Frenchman crossing the ball and sending it into the back of the net for the 1-0 at 83’.

With this territorial domination and their spirits lifted, a long pass by Jiménez once more reached Gignac, who got away from two opponents and took the ball into the area, sending it under Volpi and moving the score to 2-0. The French player’s second goal three minutes after the first brought the stadium to a state of hysteria.

With the score in the felines’ favor, several changes were made to refresh the midfield. Sobis, who played such a brave match, left the field, followed by Aquino who generated so many opportunities. They were replaced by Manuel Viniegra and José Torres.

The match ended and Tigres will now be in its fifth final in 24 months, with the possibility of becoming the best in the zone and of travelling to Japan to represent Mexico in the Club World Cup that will be played in in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Line-ups

Tigres: Nahuel Guzmán; Israel Jiménez, Hugo Ayala, Juninho and Jorge Torres Nilo; Guido Pizarro, Jesús Dueñas, Jürgen Damm (Damián Álvarez 69’) and Javier Aquino (José Torres 91’); Rafael Sobis (Manuel Viniegra 90’) and André-Pierre Gignac.

Querétaro: Tiago Volpi; George Corral, Juan Forlín, Miguel Martínez and Jonathan Bornstein; Nery Domínguez, Marco Jiménez (Jaime Gómez 77’), Yerson Candelo and Sinha (Jordi Cortizo 86’); Ángel Sepúlveda (Carlos Fierro 85’) and Édgar Benítez.

Referee: Roberto García