Pumas Survives the Drama to Face Tigres in Apertura Final

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Mexican fútbol analyst Nayib Morán wrote of the “atypical atmosphere” that characterized the Club América locker room ahead of the away side’s 3-1 win vs. Pumas yesterday. Despite facing a three-goal deficit, banda music was on full blast. The boys were beyond hyped. Unfortunately for them – within one goal of completing a momentous moment in the history of Mexican fútbol, exceeding the realms of words like “historic” and “legendary” – it was all a little too late. Pumas gifted possession, sat back and gave the ball away, and won 4-3 on aggregate.

This parody account for UNAM rector Enrique Graue pretty much summed up Pumas’ performance:

Yep, it’s fair to say that a near total collapse against nine men, a Javier Güémez leg break, and an allegation from América’s Darwin Quintero that he was the victim of racist abuse from captain Darío Verón (disgusting and unacceptable if true), were not a part of Pumas’ original game plan.

Quintero netted twice in the first half and Javier Cortés made it 1-2 in the 84th minute before Andrés Andrade scored this screamer golazo to set up a wild final few minutes of play.

América outshot Pumas 25 to 5, 10 to 1 on target, forcing Alejandro Palacios to make a handful of tremendous saves. The Mexico City side will look for him to be just as decisive in pursuit of an eighth first division title over Tigres this week, the latter fresh off a big 2-0 second-leg victory over Toluca.

Toluca’s deep defensive line held up as long as it possibly could against Tigres’ powerful attacking block of André-Pierre Gignac, Rafael Sobís, Jürgen Damm, and Javier Aquino, maintaining a goose egg scoreline until Aquino’s 69th-minute finish. It wasn’t the most spectacular goal to break the deadlock, but it did the job:

Damián Álvarez’s goal, on the other hand, was a sight to behold, a quintessential team goal finished by a beautiful cabezazo.

Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti has his side looking like a well-oiled machine, its depth and attacking prowess leading many to believe that Tigres will become the next Apertura champion in a week’s time.

Perhaps the best part of Tigres’ current success is that while we’re all well aware of the fortress that is the club’s offense, the defense has been equally dominant. According to ESPN FC’s Tom Marshall, the team from Nuevo León has only conceded five times in its last 10 Liga MX games – once in its last 489 minutes of action. But will it be enough to shut out Fidel Martínez and co.?

La Liguilla has been lit, and the finals are going to be the cherry on top of a fantastic season. First-leg action is set to kickoff this Thursday at 9:30 p.m. EST. The second-leg showdown is scheduled for Sunday at 1:00 p.m. EST. Best of luck to you and yours.