Tigres claim narrow edge with first leg win over América in Liga MX final

BY Kyle McCarthy • December 11, 2014

One moment of brilliance always loomed likely to decide the war of attrition waged between Tigres and Club América to open the Liga MX Liguilla final on Thursday night.

It took more than an hour of labored fare to produce it, but Joffre Guerron extended Tigres’ unbeaten run to 15 matches and secured a 1-0 victory at Estadio Universitario with his fine header after 64 minutes.

Much of the credit rested with evergreen schemer Damian Alvarez for conjuring the chance. Alvarez created a yard of space and curled a tempting cross into the penalty area. Guerron met the inviting service with a header to separate the sides on the night.

It proved just about deserved for the home side on a night with few clear openings for either team. Tigres will now travel to Mexico City with a narrow margin to protect, while América must improve substantially at Estadio Azteca on Sunday to overturn the deficit and left a record 12th Mexican title.

There were modest expectations about this first leg given Tigres’ measured displays in the Liguilla to date and the need for pragmatism ahead with the return match ahead at the weekend. Both teams met them willingly during a first half with few genuine talking points and scant intrigue.

Neither side accepted the potential risk of attempting to grab the tie with both hands. The focus once again fell on keeping the right shape and sending numbers forward intelligently. Those measures made sense in the situation, but they led to little intrigue in the opening stages.

Most of the half-chances fell to the home side with Guerron posing the intermittent threat for the home side. Guerron -- often left isolated by his teammates to create something on his own as the lone forward -- fired wide after eight minutes and then forced Moises Munoz to parry away at his near post. Alvarez also prompted a good Munoz block 10 minutes before the interval as Tigres attempted to engineer the breakthrough.

América offered scant threat moving forward with most of its profit coming on set pieces. Nahuel Guzman coped with Miguel Layun’s curling free kick from the left corner, while Tigres nervously meandered through several other dead ball situations with the absence of injured captain Juninho looming large. Guzman also kicked away Quick Mendoza’s low effort to ensure the affair entered halftime on level terms.

The early stages of the second half followed along the same lines with opportunities at a premium for both sides. The dynamic changed shortly after the hour as Tigres claimed the lead through incisive work by Alvarez down the left.

Alvarez collected on the left and twisted himself into a good area down on the corner. He created a precious yard of space and curled an inviting ball toward the edge of the goal area. Guerron climbed highest to overwhelm his marker and contorted wonderfully to nod the opener inside the far post.

Guerron’s breakthrough injected a bit of life into the proceedings with the home side now filled with confidence and the visitors wondering how much they should pursue a result. The structure of this final -- away goals do not count -- once again mandated some prudence from América, but the match stretched out at points nevertheless.

Alvarez continued to provide the principal source of danger for Tigres in their quest for a second. His slicing run brought him to the byline and ended with a teasing cross, but Edgar Lugo scuffed his resulting effort wide.

América manager Antonio Mohamed continued to tinker with his side in a bid to spark more creative intent. The arrivals of Michael Arroyo and Rubens Sambueza signaled a willingness to chase the game a bit, but América generally lacked the incisiveness and the sharpness to crack the resolute Tigres rearguard.

The huffing and puffing from both sides in the late stages failed to alter the calculus. Tigres will travel to Mexico City on Sunday with a slender advantage, while América must win in order to move past Chivas Guadalajara with a record 12th championship and return to the Mexican summit once more.


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