Guadalajara executed Veljko Paunovic’s game plan to perfection, frustrating Tigres with a stout defensive effort and coming away from “El Volcán” with a scoreless draw in the first leg of the Liga MX final.
The Chivas sat back in a compact formation throughout the match, conceding possession to the hosts (Tigres ended the night with 68% possession), while shutting down passing lanes in their defensive third.
The Guadalajara back line of Alan Mozo, Gilberto Sepúlveda, Antonio Briseño and Luis Orozco harassed and pestered any Tigres player who approached the box and made Miguel Jiménez’s job rather easy (Tigres got just one shot on net – a free kick in minute 84).
It helped that several Tigres playmakers had off nights. Striker André-Pierre Gignac continued his poor playoff form (and was replaced in minute 68), while wingers Luis Quiñones and Diego Lainez were ineffective and sloppy with the ball.
Heading to Guadalajara all tied up
The seventh-seeded Tigres pressed forward from the opening whistle but never found a comfort zone as the Chivas’ physical play and tight marking produced miscommunication and turnovers.
The hosts came close in minute 20 when a deflected cross arced over Jiménez and clanked off the crossbar after which Gignac misfired on the rebound.
Despite an 82% completion rate, the Tigres’ passing was not sharp, crosses and entry passes were too often speculative or rushed.
Instead of crisp ball movement, too often “los felinos” looked for easy solutions such as backheel passes (Tigres were 0 for 4) or 1-on-1 maneuvers that Guadalajara defenders repeatedly spoiled. Mozo was particularly effective in containing Lainez and quick double-teams foiled Quiñones repeatedly.
During the final 20 minutes of the match, Tigres found some space down the flanks via long balls and switches, with left back Jesús Angulo providing a series of dangerous crosses but the Chivas always had plenty of men in the box.
Each team came close once with Guadalajara’s Isaac Brizuela firing high from just inside the box after a poor back pass by Tigres’ Fernando Gorriarán while Rafa Carioca zipped a volley wide off a high clearance after a corner kick.
“El Rebaño Sagrado” will no doubt be satisfied with Thursday night’s result, confident that they can come up with a win at Estadio Akron where they were 5-1-2 during the regular season.