Andre-Pierre Gignac, excellent defense key for Tigres' success
Tigres are the first Apertura 2015 semifinalist after overcoming Chiapas 1-0 on Saturday and 3-1 on aggregate over the two legs of the quarterfinal. Here are three quick takes on the match:
1. Gignac steps up with another golazo
Andre-Pierre Gignac is on fire. And Chiapas will be sick of the sight of him.
It was the French international who made the difference again Saturday, netting another golazo to take Tigres into the semis. That makes it five goals for the 29-year-old in three games against Chiapas this Apertura.
Saturday's goal was almost as good as the one he scored last Wednesday. Jurgen Damm received the ball on the right wing and crossed it to the edge of the box, where Brazilian Rafael Sobis laid it off first time for Gignac, who rifled his shot into the goal in the 21st minute.
Unsung hero Sobis did a class job with the assist, but Gignac is almost in a competition with himself to score as many golazos as possible at present. It is as though simple goals don't interest him, and since the former Olympique Marseille made the shock move to Tigres last summer, he has now scored 13 goals in 17 Liga MX matches.
It must be stated that Chiapas did leave him lots of space for both the goals he scored in the two legs, but Gignac was clinical in taking advantage.
Gignac almost scored a second shortly before the half-hour mark, when he brought down a ball over the top from Hugo Ayala and shot against the crossbar.
The French international does not seem to have been negatively affected by the tragic events in Paris on Nov. 13, when he was with Les Bleus in Stade de France, and has been making entirely positive headlines since he returned.
It appears Gignac is keen to end his first season with the Apertura title, and that bodes well for Tigres.
2. Defense key for Tigres
This was a quality away performance from Tigres, deservedly taking the 1-0 victory and restricting Chiapas from converting any real chances. Tigres dominated possession of the ball, controlled the pace and tempo of the match and forced Chiapas coach Ricardo La Volpe into early changes.
Tigres manager Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti has been at the club for five years and has his team well-drilled; each player knows exactly what is required from him. That was evident Saturday.
With players that possess the talent and quality of Gignac, Javier Aquino and Jurgen Damm, Tigres will cause teams problems up front, but perhaps the strength of the team at the back largely goes unheralded.
Center-backs Hugo Ayala and Juninho are arguably the best in the Liga MX and certainly won the battle against Chiapas' dangerous strikers Aviles Hurtado and Silvio Romero. Behind them in goal is Argentine international Nahuel Guzman, who oozes confidence. In the regular season, Tigres were the only team to have allowed less than a goal per game, and that has continued in the playoffs.
Only conceding once in 180 minutes against a decent Chiapas side gave Gignac et al the platform to build on, and there seems little doubt at present that Tigres are the team to avoid in the semis.
3. Questions for Chiapas
Chiapas aren't the biggest or sexiest club in the Liga MX, but La Volpe has got the team playing good football this season, and they stayed in the game against Tigres for the vast majority of the series.
It wasn't enough, but there is a good base of players at the Tuxtla Gutierrez outfit that could challenge next season as well. That is, if the players and La Volpe stay.
There has already been talk in the press that the likes of Hurtado and Romero may be on the Christmas shopping lists for some of the Liga MX's bigger clubs. Chiapas have also had problems paying players in this Apertura.
"If we want to be a big or competitive team fighting for championships, you have to leave to base," La Volpe said ahead of the game.
"It will depend on the owners if Romero, [Francisco] Silva, Aviles Hurtado, "Chaka" [Rodriguez] and others leave. ... Big clubs don't sell."
La Volpe didn't exactly sound completely confident that the owners will fight to keep the players, but he is right in what he says.
Chiapas are a club that needs consistency in the playing staff and on the bench, instead of changing players around every six months. The base is there for Chiapas to fight for their first championship in the Clausura 2016 -- if the ambition is matched by the ownership.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.