Tigres stand tall in first leg of quarterfinals against Chiapas
It wasn't always convincing, but Tigres managed to overcome Chiapas 2-1 Wednesday in Estadio Universitario to grab the advantage ahead of Saturday's Apertura 2015 quarterfinal return leg.
Here are three takes from the match:
1. Gignac steals the headlines with golazo
France international Andre-Pierre Gignac is becoming to Tigres the opposite of what Ronaldinho was to Queretaro before he left last summer.
Off the field, Gignac is maybe not garnering as much attention as the Brazilian did, but on it his impact is far superior. He's producing moments of magic for Tigres fans and looks determined to drag his side as far as possible in this Liguilla.
The 29-year-old former Marseille netted a goal of such distinction in the first half against Chiapas that it will be picked up and shown around the world.
It came in the 21st minute, when Uruguayan Egidio Arevalo played a chipped pass over the Chiapas defense and Gignac swiveled and scissor-kicked the ball into the goal from just inside the penalty area.
The goal arrived at a vital moment with Tigres not creating very much and was a stroke of genius that helps justify the significant outlay that the club reportedly splashed out to get the in-demand striker.
But it wasn't just the goal that helped Gignac stand out. He assisted Damian Alvarez's winner in the 84th minute and went close just before halftime when he set himself up and then volleyed from the edge of the box. Only a fine save from Oscar Jimenez prevented another Vine-tastic moment from the Martigues native.
Gignac may make more money than his teammates and the Chiapas players, but his attitutude and work-rate are outstanding. For any future star purchases to the Liga MX from abroad (and especially from Europe), Gignac is setting the bar high.
2. Small margins in tight tactical game
Wednesday's other quarterfinal between Club America and Leon was much more of an end-to-end open spectacle, but Tigres versus Chiapas was the classier affair between two shrewd coaches in Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti and Ricardo La Volpe.
Two moments of individual brilliance from Gignac and Alvarez settled the game in Tigres' favor, but underdog Chiapas and La Volpe deserve credit for the way they restricted Tigres to very few real chances. If it was a boxing fight, you'd hand the victory to Ferretti on split decision, but he had much more talent in his squad than La Volpe and would've been heavy favorite beforehand. Saturday will be the rematch.
Tigres wingers Jurgen Damm and Javier Aquino struggled against a back five, with Chiapas always seeming to have a man spare at the back, while going forward Aviles Hurtado and Silvio Romero caused problems on the rare occasions the ball was played up to them.
Colombian Hurtado had an easy chance to equalize in the 56th minute when he headed over from three meters with the goal gaping. In a game of few opportunities and a lot of minor tactical tweaks, Chiapas needed Hurtado to take that chance.
Still, with an away goal and a record of six wins and two ties from eight matches at home this season, Chiapas will believe they have a good chance of causing an upset on Saturday.
For Tigres, the warning signs are there for all to see. The team's aversion to risk and to going out and scoring more goals to put games to bed at home may prove costly, especially in a tournament in which the away goal rule counts. On chances alone on Wednesday, Chiapas were worthy of a tie, even if Tigres dominated with 69 percent possession.
3. Damm needs to up his game with Alvarez present
Tigres winger Jurgen Damm made an impact for Mexico against Honduras with a fine goal after coming off the bench in the second half, but the frustrating and inconsistent side of his game was on display on Wednesday.
Damm was pushed off the ball too easily, didn't impact the match down the right wing and was indecisive in possession. Obviously, the raw pace Damm possesses means his mere presence scares defenders and provides space for team-mates to operate, but it won't always be enough, especially in these big matches.
Tigres noticeably upped their game when Damm was replaced by 34-year-old fan favorite Alvarez on the hour mark and the intelligent Argentine's introduction on the left -- with Aquino shifting right -- led directly to the team's winner.
Alvarez received the ball on the left-hand side of the box from Gignac in the 84th and steered a gorgeous finish past Jimenez. Fans chanted Alvarez's name and Ferretti will be weighing up whether Damm may be a better bet coming on from the bench as an impact sub for the return clash.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.