Tigres hold off Santos to reach CCL Final, await Monterrey-Sporting Kansas City result.
Santos defeated the Tigres Wednesday night 3-2 but the visitors moved on thanks to their 3-0 first-leg win last week. Enner Valencia and Julián Quiñones scored first-half goals to extend the Tigres aggregate advantage to 5-0 and forcing Santos to score 6 goals to advance (because of the away goals rule).
At times during the opening 45 minutes, the Tigres appeared to be a blue wave inevitably moving toward Jonathan Orozco’s goal. They were constantly breaking down the Santos defense and creating scoring chances. The Tigres came close to running away with the game as Quiñones hit the post and Orozco made two brilliant saves. The Guerreros refused to give up in front of their home fans and they started chipping away at the lead just before halftime when Julio Furch knocked home a loose ball after a scramble off a corner kick.
The second half began with another blue surge into the Santos defensive zone and Valencia, Quiñones and Edu Vargas took turns spraying shots at Orozco who made two more outstanding saves. Then Quiñones hit the post again. Just before the hour mark, Furch scored again to knot the score at 2-2 and bring Santos within 5-2 on aggregate.
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Tigres coach Tuca Ferretti started to bring in some substitutes in an effort to speed up his counterattack (Javier Aquino) and strengthen his midfield (Jorge Torres Nilo in for Rafa Carioca with Jesús Dueñas moving up from left back to midfield).
In minute 79, Santos captain José Abella lofted a long cross into the box from the right flank and the ball got past Tigres goalie Nahuel Guzmán and ended up in the net. Guzmán leaped up and yelled at ref Marco Antonio Ortiz and a look at the replay showed why. As Guzmán rose to catch the cross, Furch charged in and knocked aside his left hand. The goalie was unable to grab the ball and Santos midfielder Diego Valdes tapped it in at the back post.
Still needing 3 goals in the final 10 minutes to win, Santos began to exhibit some frustration and ref Ortiz allowed the play to get physical, drawing the ire of the Tigres. Ortiz dismissed the Tigres complaints and took exception to their remarks, showing yellow cards to Tigres defenders Carlos Salcedo and Chaka Rodríguez.
Late in stoppage time, Santos carried one more time into the box with left back Gerardo Arteaga cutting toward goal. Defender Hugo Ayala slid by and Arteaga flopped to the ground, but Ayala was not even in the same area code as Arteaga (replays showed he slid past Arteaga, missing him by at least 2 feet). Ref Ortiz pointed to the penalty spot and the Tigres players could only shake their heads. It didn’t matter much that Javier Correa missed the penalty kick and the final whistle blew shortly thereafter.
The Tigres now await the winner of the Monterrey-Sporting Kansas City series for the finals which are set to begin in two weeks. Monterrey takes a 5-0 lead into Kansas City for Thursday night’s return match, making a Clásico Regiomontano in the CCL Final a rather good bet.
Notes: The Tigres have never won a CCL title, losing first to América in the 2016 final, then losing to Pachuca in the 2017 final. … Enner Valencia is in line to win the Golden Boot as he leads the CCL goal-scoring table with 8 goals. The No. 2 goal scorer is Furch with 5 goals followed by Sporting KC striker Krysztian Nemeth who has 4 goals.