Record-breaking Gignac leads Tigres; Tuzos stumble

Tigres striker Andre-Pierre Gignac celebrates after scoring in a ninth straight game. Gignaca leads Liga MX with 10 goals. (Photo by Azael Rodriguez/Getty Images)
Tigres striker Andre-Pierre Gignac celebrates after scoring in a ninth straight game. Gignaca leads Liga MX with 10 goals. (Photo by Azael Rodriguez/Getty Images) /
Liga MX M12
Pachuca coach Jorge Almada acknowledges the crowd before the Tuzos-Guerreros match on Sunday. Almada had coached Santos for five seasons, leading the Guerreros to a Liga MX Final in 2020. (Photo by Armando Marin/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

The resumption of the Liga MX season after the FIFA break fizzled at the outset but sizzled on Sunday night resulting in a change at the top of the table.

Pachuca tumbled out of first place upon suffering its first loss since Matchday 1 while the Tigres leap-frogged the Tuzos thanks to another record-setting performance by André-Pierre Gignac.

Earlier Sunday, third-place Puebla saw its winless streak stretch to three games and León fumbled a chance to climb into the top four after settling for a draw against visiting Querétaro.

These four matches were preceded by four 1-0 results that failed to stimulate Liga MX soccer fans eager for some drama as the Clausura 2022 heads down the home stretch.

Tigres, Tuzos switch spots

Perhaps looking ahead to Thursday’s top-of-the-table showdown, the Tigres struggled to unlock Tijuana’s defense. The gritty Xolos held their own at “El Volcán” for nearly an hour before a bit of magic from Florian Thauvin produced the opener, with Juan Pablo Vigón the beneficiary.

Fifteen minutes later, Thauvin’s countryman André-Pierre Gignac stamped his name into the Liga MX record books once again. The high-flying Frenchman scored his 10th goal of the season and in so doing surpassed the legendary Isidro Lángara for a second time.

Great work by Carlos González in midfield sent Gignac free down the middle and APG10 flicked a shot past substitute keeper Gil Alcalá to make it 2-0. With the goal, Gignac equaled José Cardozo as the only players to score in nine consecutive Liga MX games, becoming the first European player to do so. Lángara – a Spaniard – had scored in eight consecutive games in 1938 for CD Euzkadi, a team in Mexico’s Primera Fuerza league that was formed by players escaping the Spanish Civil War. Last season, Gignac moved past Lángara as the European with the most goals in Mexico’s first division when he scored his 125th for the Tigres. The Frenchman now has 162 goals for “Los Felinos.”

Meanwhile, in Torreón, Santos Laguna continued its resurgence, this time at the expense of its former coach. Guillermo Almada returned to Estadio Corona with a Pachuca squad that was on an 8-1-0 run. The feisty Uruguayan manager had been unceremoniously fired by Santos in late November despite considerable success with “Los Laguneros.”

Almada quickly caught on with the Tuzos and guided them into first place with the aggressive, pressing style that was a Santos hallmark while he was there. Pachuca boasted the stingiest defense in Liga MX heading into the Sunday night match, but a defensive error by Kevin Álvarez early in the second half proved too much to overcome.

Deep in his own end, the Tuzos’ right back tried to outsmart Brian Lozano with a cute cutback dribble but the Santos winger stripped Álvarez and fed Harold Preciado all alone in front of net and it was 2-0 Guerreros in minute 51. Each team scored once for the final 3-1 scoreline and Pachuca tumbled into second place much to Almada’s chagrin.

As for Santos, the club continues its revival under Eduardo Fentanes who replaced Pedro Caixinha as manager back in February. The Guerreros were winless and in last place when Fentanes was named interim manager but since then the club has gone 4-1-1 and climbed into 10th place. There would seem to be little doubt that Fentanes will get the full-time job when the season is over.

Pachuca must shake off the setback quickly and get ready for the Tigres on Thursday. The Tuzos are now 1 point behind the Tigres (26 to 25) in the Liga MX standings but can reclaim the lead by winning at home in a make-up game from Matchday 9.

Elsewhere in Liga MX

Toluca eased the pressure on coach Ignacio Ambriz by defeating suddenly troubled Puebla 2-1. Toluca – still with the leakiest defense in Liga MX (21 goals allowed in 11 matches) – had been embarrassed in two straight games (losing 3-0 to first place Pachuca then again by the same score to last place América), putting Ambriz’s job in jeopardy.

Puebla was the last Liga MX team to suffer a loss but is now 0-1-2 since opening the season 6-3-0 and holding first place for more than a month. Toluca’s win boosts the Diablos Rojos (16 points) into seventh place while Puebla (22 points) now sits in third.

Cruz Azul edged past Liga MX champs Atlas 1-0 to muscle past the Zorros into fourth place. The Cementeros have 20 points, Atlas 19. The lone goal came as a result of great hustle by Uriel Antuna who chased down a ball before it went out of bounds, spun back toward goal and zipped a low cross right onto the head of Santi Giménez.

León’s failure to put away visiting Querétaro in a testy match keeps the Esmeraldas in sixth while eighth-place Monterrey (15 points) has two games in hand. The Rayados (15 points) are tied with UNAM (a 1-0 winner at FC Juárez on Saturday) and Santos Laguna but ahead on goal differential.

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The weekend’s other matches saw América escape Necaxa with 3 points thanks to a late goal from Diego Valdés. The victory was the second straight for the Aguilas, boosting them into 14th place (13 points). Atlético de San Luis knocked back last place Mazatlán 1-0 on Friday night.