Pachuca's colossal defence proves to be the difference in CCL finale
PACHUCA, Hidalgo -- Pachuca won its fifth CONCACAF Champions League after defeating Tigres 2-1 on aggregate, after Wednesday's second leg finished 1-0 in favour of the hosts.
Here are three thoughts from the match:
1. Pachuca's defense end up being the difference
There was never a point in the series where Tigres quit on taking shots on goal. Whether it was Andre-Pierre Gignac, Eduardo Vargas, Javier Aquino or Ismael Sosa, Tigres made Pachuca's defense work throughout the 180 minutes.
Before the series got underway, Omar Gonzalez told ESPN FC how Tigres was a team that had bench players who could easily be starters in any other Liga MX team, but Los Tuzos' defense headed into this series in impeccable shape.
Pachuca's defense has practically played together since January 2016, and so far in the 2017 Clausura, it has only conceded 12 goals. The center-back duo of Gonzalez and Oscar Murillo proved in the CCL final that they're the best defensive duo in the country.
It almost looked useless as Tigres sent cross after cross into the box, hoping to connect with one of the strikers. Almost all of the aerial duels were won by Pachuca's defenders.
Captain Erick Gutierrez described the first-leg as tactical, and a game where Los Tuzos put defensive matters ahead of attacking ones, but that's practically how Pachuca interpreted the whole series. Pachuca's organization proved to be better than Tigres', and this order allowed keeper Alfonso Blanco to succeed in goal. The assurance and trust he received from his backline allowed him to come clutch in plays that called on him to make important saves.
Everyone in Pachuca's defense gave brilliant performances, including full-backs Raul "Deditos" Lopez and Emmanuel Garcia, who might have caught Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio's attention as he prepares for a busy summer that will demand him to make up two teams -- one for the Confederations Cup and another one for the Gold Cup.
2. Lozano showed a lot of maturity in victory
Right before Erick Gutierrez lifted the CCL trophy, Hirving "Chucky" Lozano was singing his heart out just like any other Tuzo fan in the stadium. Pachuca's prodigious child was able to celebrate an important championship in front of his crowd, and not only that, his hard right-footed shot led to Franco Jara's goal. When the ball left his right boot, the ball didn't swirled and goalkeeper Nahuel Guzman was left only to spill the ball away from goal, leaving Jara with an easy scoring chance.
It was noticeable that Tigres tried to disrupt his influence on the game by fouling him every time he had a chance to breakaway in open space. Lozano took the hits and kept going with his game. Even if matters looked grey, he never lost conviction, and in the play that he was able to take a shot, Pachuca got the goal that gave it the title.
There was a lot of maturity shown by Chucky in the second-leg of the final. His orders and his willingness to listen to his teammates as he accommodated himself as another defender were some of the highlights that stood out. Chucky finished the tournament as the leading top goalscorer, and now his eyes turn to an eventual participation in this summer's Confederations Cup, and possibly a move overseas to a European club.
However, he accomplished something that had been in his mind for awhile, winning an important championship in front of the fans that have showed him support since day one.
3. Tigres keeps falling short
It's true that Tigres missed an important penalty in the first-leg, and that they even had several of their shots hit the woodwork, but that doesn't take away from the fact that Tigres once again failed to rise to the occasion.
Pachuca came into this series without posing serious danger up front; its scoring drought was something that worried head coach Diego Alonso and the players, but they found the means to walk away victorious against Tigres, just like River Plate did in the 2015 Copa Libertadores and Club America did in the 2016 CCL.
When Tigres is dubbed the favorite, they have a hard time assimilating it, and instead of taking over the matches, it seems that they're overwhelmed to the idea of commanding the game. Against Pachuca, they had possession of the ball, but the ideas disappeared as the minutes went by and the desperation levels raised.
History will go down and point out that in the three finals that Pachuca and Tigres have so far disputed, Los Tuzos have come out with the victory in all of them. Pachuca has found a way to quiet down the Tigres crowd, who came into all those finals with the idea that they were going to win a championship.
Tigres will have a lot to think about because these type of failures are ones that put an asterisk on their current golden era, where it's been more common seeing them lose finals than win them.
Nayib Moran covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @nayibmoran.