By Dan Price
Tigres UANL lost 4-1 to Pumas UNAM in the second leg of 2015 Apertura final in Mexico, only to recompose themselves and win 4-2 in the penalty shootout.
The two-legged showpiece will undoubtedly go down as one of the all-time classics in Mexican football history – after Tigres won the first leg 3-0 on Thursday night, not even the most ardent Pumas supporter could have imagined that the Mexico City side would come so close to a miraculous turnaround.
As the game approached half-time, a recovery looked unlikely. Tigres had allowed Pumas to have most of the ball, but an assured and composed defensive performance has restricted the hosts to few real opportunities.
The breakthrough came in the 44th minute, as a mix-up between Nahuel Guzman and Israel Jimenez allowed Eduardo Herrera to prode home. Ten minutes after the break Matias Britos added Pumas’ second to make it 3-2 on aggregate, and thereafter it was one-way traffic. The equaliser eventually came thanks to Silvio Torales, when he headed home in the 87th minute. Andre-Pierre Gignac thought he won it for Tigres in the 103rd minute of extra time, but more drama was to come as Gerardo Alcoba prodded in with just 30 seconds left to play.
Tigres scored all four of their penalties, while Fidel Martinez and Javier Cortes missed for Pumas.
It was Tigres’ fourth league title and their second in the last four years. After being beaten in the 2014 final by Club America twelve months ago when they lost their heads in the Azteca and ended with eight men on the pitch, it looked for a time like lightening might strike twice.
There is an argument that if it wasn’t for Herrera’s red card in the 91st minute it might have been a different story – with his dismissal Pumas lost their attacking edge, and for much of extra time Tigres sliced through them with ease – something they had utterly failed to do during the ninety minutes.
The title marks the end of a great 2015 for Tigres – the finished the Clausura as the superlider last spring, and were runners-up in the Copa Libertadores in the autumn.
For Pumas, it was a heart-breaking night – but one from which they can also take a lot of positives. They did themselves, their fans, and the league proud. A couple of quality additions over the close-season and they will surely come back even stronger in the Clausura.
The league will announce the fixtures for 2016 in the coming days, but the opening weekend of games is expected to kick-off on Friday 8th January.