Tigres survive early Pumas attack to advance to second straight final

Champs will defend their title against top-seeded América
Juan Pablo Vigón (No. 16) watches his minute 24 shot ripple the net. The goal gave Tigres a 2-1 aggregate win over the Pumas in a Liga MX semifinal.
Juan Pablo Vigón (No. 16) watches his minute 24 shot ripple the net. The goal gave Tigres a 2-1 aggregate win over the Pumas in a Liga MX semifinal. / Jam Media/GettyImages

Tigres will be defending their title against top-seeded América in the Liga MX Final after the champs secured a 2-1 aggregate victory over Pumas.

Former UNAM captain Juan Pablo Vigón converted a centering pass from Sebastián Córdova in minute 24, lashing home from just inside the box to answer an early goal by Gabriel Fernández.

The Pumas spent the remaining two-thirds of the match chasing the two goals it needed to advance, but the visitors managed just two more shots on goal, neither of which tested Nahuel Guzmán.

Guzmán was a hero, momentarily, in the opening quarter-hour, foiling a low César Huerta penalty kick with a splendid diving save. The Pumas were unfazed, however, scoring shortly thereafter from the ensuing corner kick.

Tigres respond via moment of brilliance from Córdova

The normally vociferous crowd at “El Volcán” was suddenly muted as the Pumas were just one goal away from setting up a “Clásico Capitalino” in the final. As the lower seed, UNAM had to win outright to get past Tigres whereas the champs would advance with an aggregate tie.

The holders were looking out of sorts through the opening 20 minutes, but they shook off their lethargy when Córdova – last season’s playoff MVP – found his footing in midfield.

The former América star wove his way past three markers, rounded a defender into the area then squared a pass across the top of the box that bounced past striker Nico Ibáñez and into the path of the onrushing Vigón who knocked the ball down with his abdomen before rifling a shot past a helpless Julio González.

The goal seemed to light a spark in the 11 Tigres on the field – and there was pandemonium in the stands – and Robert Siboldi’s men rarely gave the Pumas a moment of breathing room the rest of the game.

In the middle of the Tigres defense, midfielder Rafa Carioca and center backs Guido Pizarro and Samir Caetano played lights-out defense, while fullbacks Javier Aquino and Jesús Angulo were nearly as flawless.

Fernando Gorriarán and Córdova flashed their skills, turning defense into offense. Gorriarán hit the crossbar on one rush forward, while Córdova provided a steady supply of probing passes that led to scoring chances for the hosts.

In minute 78, Pumas defender Pablo Bennevendo was shown a red card for an inadvertent stamp on the top of Diego Lainez’s foot and UNAM’s hopes were dashed.

Another bitter Dec. 10 loss to Tigres for Mohamed 

Six years ago to the day, the underdog Tigres defeated Monterrey 2-1 to win the Apertura 2017 Final.

The Rayados were the No. 1 seeds entering the Final, hoping to claim their first Liga MX title in seven years. Tigres – the No. 2 seed – were just one year removed from their previous championship.

After a 1-1 draw in the first leg on Dec. 7, 2017, the “Clásico Regiomontano” moved to the Estadio BBVA Bancomer where Monterrey – and coach Antonio Mohamed – were  eager to hoist the trophy in front of their home fans.

But Tigres took a 2-1 lead into the halftime break and made it stand up, claiming their 7th Liga MX title.

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Exactly six years later, Mohamed and his Pumas trudged off the Estadio Universitario pitch with long faces, another loss to Tigres sure to give “El Turco” nightmares