Tigres, Pumas advance: Easy home wins set up cat fight in semifinals

Gignac returns from injury to lead No. 3 Tigres while No. 4 Pumas pounce on Chivas early
André-Pierre Gignac gestures after converting a penalty kick to put Tigres up 1-0 early in their quarterfinal match against Puebla.
André-Pierre Gignac gestures after converting a penalty kick to put Tigres up 1-0 early in their quarterfinal match against Puebla. / Azael Rodriguez/GettyImages

UNAM scored twice in the first 20 minutes (one of them an own-goal) then clamped down on a rattled Guadalajara side that failed to get a single shot on target to secure a 3-0 victory and a berth in the Liga MX semifinals

Antonio Briseño accidentally headed a low cross into his own net in minute 14 then former Pumas fullback Alan Mozo committed a rash penalty just 4 minutes later. César Huerta calmly converted to put the Chivas behind the 8-ball early.

The visitors were clearly flustered and frustration mounted. In the first 10 minutes or so after falling behind by two goals, Chivas players wasted time and energy whining about not getting calls for perfectly executed flops.

While the Pumas focused on maintaining tactical shape, Guadalajara lost concentration and UNAM took advantage by generating danger on the counter time and time again.

In minute 64, “El Toro” Fernández ended all hopes of a Chivas comeback by finishing off a sleek counterattack. Fernández shook free of a defender in the box then blasted a shot off the underside of the crossbar from a sharp angle. 

With a spot in the semifinals in hand, the Pumas saw out the rest of the match. 

Though there was some physical play during the final 20 minutes, little of note happened except for the reappearance of Chivas forward J.J. Macías. The 24-year-old striker had not played in a game since May 16, 2022, battling to return from a series of knee surgeries.

This match also might have marked the last time Alexis Vega will be seen wearing a Chivas uniform. 

The talented winger, 26, has been a headache for management and has not played up to his giant wage packet for a couple seasons now. The enigmatic Vega has just 1 goal in 16 playoff games with Guadalajara.

Gignac brace leads Tigres in mauling of Camoteros

After missing the first leg of the quarterfinal series against Puebla, André-Pierre Gignac made his presence known rather quickly. 

Before the game was 10 minutes old, Camoteros skipper Diego de Buen committed a careless penalty and the Frenchman eagerly zipped the spot kick past a lunging Jesús Rodríguez inside the left post.

Puebla – needing a win to advance to the Final Four as the No. 6 seed – nearly equalized in minute 14 but Martín Barragán mishit a header at the back post from a fantastic Brayan Angulo cross.

Then came a bonehead mistake from the Camoteros. Pablo González lashed out after Sebastián Córdova dribbled past him twice in one move so the Puebla midfielder chopped down the Tigres playmaker. 

Unfortunately, the foul positioned Gignac for a free kick and the all-time leading scorer for Tigres (199 goals now) rifled a beautiful free kick toward the upper right corner. Rodríguez managed to get a couple fingertips on the shot but was unable to keep it out of the net.

The goal was Gignac’s 33rd playoff goal, third on the all-time Liga MX postseason scoring list, behind José Cardozo’s 43 and Jared Borgetti’s 41.

“La Franja” would now have to score three goals to spring the upset but Rodríguez was still under fire and the visitors could not get any good looks at net. The Puebla keeper denied Raymundo Fulgencio (minute 40) and Gignac (54’) while his counterpart, Nahuel Guzmán was snoozing at the other end of the pitch (he would only face one shot on goal all night).

There was nothing Rodríguez could do in minute 72 except tip his cap as Nico Ibáñez who had subbed in for Gignac supplied a SportsCenter-worthy highlight

Another sub, Vladimir Loroña, followed a Tigres breakout upfield, collected a pass from Fernando Gorriarán, dribbled around a defender to the touchline then chipped a cross back into the middle off the box where Ibáñez executed a perfect bicycle kick.

The 3rd-seeded Tigres shut the door thereafter and will continue their title defense against the 4th-seeded Pumas.

Tigres have yet to lose a playoff game at home under Robert Siboldi, who took over the reins late last season before guiding “los felinos” to the Liga MX title. The defending champs and Siboldi are now 4–1-0 in the postseason at “El Volcán."