Chivas take 2017 Liga MX Clausura crown with famous final win vs. Tigres
GUADLAJARA, Mexico -- Chivas defeated Tigres 2-1 on Sunday to lift their 12th Liga MX title and equal Club America as Mexico's most successful club.
Alan Pulido opened the scoring in the first half, with Jose Juan "Gallito" Vazquez increasing Chivas' lead in the 70th minute, before Ismael Sosa pulled one back for Tigres late on.
Here are three thoughts from an epic Liga MX final:
1. Famous title for Chivas
Title No. 12 for Chivas has come a little over a decade since their last one in 2006. In that time, a lot has happened. Most notably, Chivas flirted with relegation and were often near the foot of the table.
But the side that plays with all Mexican players has risen from those days. Chivas deserved this title, which takes them level with rival Club America as the most successful in the Mexican game. There is a nationalistic feel to Chivas and the fact that this title comes at a time when there are more foreigners than ever in Liga MX is a boost for Mexican players, especially younger ones.
Chivas hustled, pressed, ran and then ran some more against Tigres on Sunday, as they had in the 2-2 first-leg draw. Backed by a stadium urging them on, Chivas rose to the occasion to match Tigres' very expensively assembled squad all over the field.
Pulido's opening goal in the 17th minute was brilliant. Oswaldo Alanis lofted a perfectly weighted pass into the penalty area and Pulido ran off the shoulder of the last defender Juninho, waited for the ball to drop and finished with real poise.
Tigres had their chances. Chivas keeper Rodolfo Cota saved his team three minutes before Pulido's goal when he smothered Jurgen Damm as he was charging on goal. Cota did the same from Sosa in the 49th minute.
Sosa pulled one back in the 87th minute and Tigres had a non-call on a potential late penalty go against them.
But none of those details will be remembered. What will go down in history is that a hard-working, young Chivas side led by talented young coach in Matias Almeyda managed to conquer one of the best teams ever in Liga MX.
2. Pulido outshines Gignac
It just had to be Pulido. The former Tigres striker, who left the club under a cloud of contractual issues, was Chivas' player of the series, and scored the opening goal in each game of the final.
The word "redemption" springs to mind. Pulido had a torrid time in Europe and there was criticism when he signed for Chivas last summer. Indeed, Guadalajara was also criticized for splashing out a club-record transfer fee on a player who had barely featured in two years and didn't exactly have the best reputation.
Sunday was the validation of Chivas bringing back Pulido, and Pulido accepting the challenge. In the end, he outshone France striker Andre-Pierre Gignac, Liga MX's most-lauded star.
In the first leg, Pulido also struck early and it was perhaps the key goal in the series. Chivas had scored very few goals from open play in the games leading up to the final. The Pulido strike didn't just give his team the advantage, it fed them belief.
But Gignac's masterclass in the final minutes of that first leg left the series open. In the second leg, Gignac just couldn't conjure up that same magic, as much as he was clearly trying.
In the end and after 180 minutes, Pulido won the battle of two of Liga MX's best strikers.
3. Chivas are back to stay under Almeyda
Sunday felt like the moment when Estadio Chivas finally became Chivas' real home. The atmosphere was by far the best since the stadium opened in 2010.
The Chivas nation is alive with pride and passion for a club that claims to have 40 million fans. Three hours before kickoff, the parking lot outside the stadium was full. Banda and mariachi played, carne asadas were going on all over and supporters were singing about Chivas winning title No. 12.
In the end, Chivas were victorious. But regardless of what happened on the field over the 90 minutes Sunday, the whole occasion was a reminder of what Chivas mean to Mexican soccer.
The whole league is better off with Liga MX giants Chivas being protagonists.
Under Almeyda, the side from Guadalajara has returned to the top of Liga MX. Owner Jorge Vergara's millions spent in the transfer market have vastly helped, but the reward is seeing a Chivas side challenging for trophies.
If Almeyda can be retained -- and he says he is in it for the long run at Chivas -- the investment continues and not too many of the younger stars (especially Orbelin Pineda and Roldolfo Pizarro) leave, the future of Guadalajara's all-Mexican team is bright.
If the template is adhered to, there are likely to be more special nights like Sunday in Estadio Chivas in the near future.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.