Monterrey, Tigres deliver thrilling game in rain-soaked Apertura final first-leg

Monterrey, Tigres deliver thrilling game in rain-soaked Apertura final first-leg
From ESPN - December 7, 2017

MONTERREY, Mexico -- Tigres and Monterrey drew 1-1 on Thursday in Estadio Universitario in the first leg of the 2017 Apertura final in a rain-soaked game, with the second and defining leg coming Sunday in Monterrey's Estadio BBVA Bancomer.

Here are three takes on the game in which both teams finished with 10 players:

1. Monterrey with slight advantage for Sunday's final

Last time these two teams met in the playoffs -- just over six months ago in the 2017 Clausura quarterfinals -- the series was all but over after the first leg, with Tigres cruising to a 4-1 win.

Monterrey coach Antonio Mohamed made no bones about wanting revenge for that loss ahead of the Liga MX final and Thursday's first leg offered evidence of how improved Rayados are this Apertura.

In front of a packed Estadio Universitario and in sweeping rain -- which at times was of the frozen variety -- Monterrey held firm and the result puts Rayados just about in the driving seat, given they have scored 23 goals and conceded just four in home games this season.

There is very little between these teams on the basis on Thursday's match and Tigres coach Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti -- aiming to guide his team to their third Liga MX title in three years -- will not have wanted to have given a set piece goal away, which is exactly how Monterrey opened the scoring.

A corner swung in from Dorlan Pabon in the ninth minute was glanced into the net by Nico Sanchez, with Tigres goalkeeper Nahuel Guzman making a sprawling and ultimately unsuccessful effort to stop the ball going in at his near post. With no Tigres player guarding the posts from corners, there's little doubt that Mohamed had worked on the routine in training in preparation for the match.

But after a nervous start from the home side, Tigres did up the tempo after the goal and deserved their 27th minute equalizer.

It was another defensive error that handed Tigres the leveler, with Monterrey striker Rogelio Funes Mori making a true forward's challenge to run into the back of Enner Valencia inside the penalty area. Funes Mori was lucky not to be sent off abd Valencia stepped up and scored the kind of Panenka penalty that will go down in the history of the rivalry, especially if Tigres lift the trophy on Sunday.

After the break, the conditions deteriorated and probably hindered Tigres more than Monterrey, with the increasingly waterlogged pitch working against the home side's patient passing game.

The sheer drive of each team to get a result through shone through as aesthetics went out of the window and the tackles came flying in -- leading to a total of 11 yellow cards and late reds for Monterrey's Leonel Vangioni and Tigres' Hugo Ayala.

Tigres, however, had the better of the second 45 minutes in terms of both possession and chances, with Jesus Duenas forcing a fine save from Monterrey keeper Hugo Gonzalez -- Rayados' only Mexico-born starter -- from a free kick in the 72nd minute. French striker Andre-Pierre Gignac also hit the post with a shot from outside the penalty area four minutes later.

2. Californian Gonzalez lives up to hype


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