All Tigres UANL had to do was not allow three goals. They did, and the match went to extra time and then into penalty kicks.
Despite all of that, Tigres prevailed 4-2 in penalty kicks to defeat UNAM Pumas and claim the Liga MX Apertura championship in dramatic fashion.
Tigres tweeted about the victory:
Coming in with a 3-0 aggregate lead, Tigres’ strategy turned into taking the air out of the ball and playing defense. But Pumas scored three goals, including the equalizer in the 88th minute, to send the match to extra time.
But in the 90th minute, the complexion of the match changed. Eduardo Herrera, who scored a goal earlier in the evening, received his second yellow card and was sent off. Pumas had to play the final 30 minutes with only 10 men, and that’s when Tigres took advantage.
Thirteen minutes into extra time, Tigres picked up the pace and put Pumas against the ropes. Andre-Pierre Gignac scored against the tired Pumas defense to give his side a one-goal lead on aggregate.
Cesar Hernandez of ESPN FC tweeted this out 10 minutes prior to Gignac's goal, providing us with a little foreshadowing:
But with time ticking down, Pumas tied the match at 4-4 on aggregate thanks to a goal from defenseman Gerardo Alcoba and sent it to penalty kicks.
Tom Marshall of ESPN FC provided the following reaction:
Unfortunately for Pumas, the PK portion was doomed from the start. Fidel Martinez missed the first Pumas attempt wide to the left. Javier Cortes missed as well, and Tigres went 4-of-4, sealing the win.
Despite this being a fantastic match that provided a stellar finish, it should not have gotten to that point.
Needing three goals to pull even Sunday and force extra time, Pumas could not crack the code that was Tigres' defense early in the match, but Pumas finally got on the board late in the first half. Herrera connected with a shot into the back of the net to cut the aggregate deficit to 3-1.
Marshall documented how long it had been since Tigres had given up a goal, which was close to five full soccer matches:
Pumas mustered five shots in the first half but were able to put three on target. Even though they weren't getting enough chances at the net, Pumas attempted to make those chances count. Compare that to Tigres, who had only three shots in the half.
Tigres focused on playing keep-away despite the possession advantage swinging in favor of Pumas at 58 percent. But when Tigres did have possession, they wasted as much clock as possible, per Marshall:
But only 10 minutes into the second half, Pumas made it interesting. A header from Matias Britos gave Pumas a 2-0 lead and brought the aggregate to 3-2 in favor of Tigres. Finally, in the 88th minute, Silvio Torales' header trickled into the back of the net to send the match into extra time.
Hernandez was in shock as the match, which once seemed over, now saw Pumas playing with plenty of life:
It was a second leg that should not have even been this entertaining, but Pumas gained plenty of respect Sunday night. Not many teams can come back from three goals down, with their backs against the wall, and get as far as penalty kicks. Even before Pumas were down to 10 men, the match should have been over.
Hernandez credited Pumas for their valiant effort:
Tigres made it entertaining, but they're a terrific team for a reason. They hadn't allowed a goal in almost five full matches, until tonight. In the end, it was a battle of attrition and whoever would be the last team standing.
Despite the finish playing out the way it did, Marshall felt the best team won:
Hernandez called it one of the best soccer matches he's ever witnessed:
If there weren't any fans of Liga MX before, there likely are now.