7th-seeded Pachuca hosted 2nd-seeded Tigres UANL in the first match of the Apertura 2014 playoffs, and in a game with few goalscoring chances, the final score ended up knotted at 1-1 thanks to a pair of own goals.
The first half was a rather dull affair, without the energy and creativity that one would hope for in a Liguilla match. Pachuca started off brightly, but Tigres didn’t take long to get a foothold in the game and after that the match slowed down. Both teams had sent out midfield-heavy lineups, with only one true striker, and both target men – Ariel Nahuelpán for the Tuzos and Hérculez Gómez for Tigres – found themselves isolated and unable to have an effect on the game.
The match stayed bogged down in midfield for most of the first 45, although each team had one or two chances to break the deadlock. For Pachuca, Erick Gutiérrez shot just wide at the end of a good sequence, while in another play Jürgen Damm had the ball in the box with a clear look at goal, and elected to play a square pass to a teammate instead. For Tigres, their main threat was Joffre Guerrón, who used his pace to wreak havoc in Pachuca’s backline.
After the scoreless first half, “Tuca” Ferretti made two halftime substitutions, bringing on Guido Pizarro and Darío Burbano for Gerardo Lugo and Hérculez Gómez, and his tactical adjustment paid dividends almost immediately. Three minutes into the half, Burbano charged down the right flank towards goal, with Pachuca’s defense backing off the attacker. He sent a dangerous pass to Guerrón, only for a sliding Rodrigo Salinas to knock the ball away just before the shot came in. Unfortunately for the Tuzos defender, his slide tackle sent the ball into the back of his own net, and Tigres were ahead, 0-1, in the 49th minute.
Enrique Meza made some substitutions of his own, but his were like-for-like: Abraham Darío Careño for Ariel Nahuelpán, Diego Buonanotte for Dieter Villalpando. He kept Pachuca in a 4-5-1 formation, and they continued to be short on attacking impetus with a lone striker isolated up top.
It was only in the final ten minutes of the game that Pachuca managed to create some dangerous opportunities, and it wasn’t until stoppage time that they were able to bring one to fruition. In the minute, Hugo Ayala deflected a cross from Salinas with his knee, sending the ball past Nahuel Guzmán and into his own net to tie the game 1-1.
The 1-1 draw still favors Tigres, but the late goal gave Pachuca a foothold in the series. Saturday’s second leg will be a winner-takes-all affair; should the game end in a 0-0 or 1-1 draw, Tigres would advance, while a draw of 2-2 or higher would send Pachuca through.
Pachuca: Óscar Pérez, Rodrigo Salinas, Aquivaldo Mosquera, Hugo Rodríguez, Walter Ayoví, Hiving Lozano, Jorge Hernández (Avilés Hurtado 81′), Erick Gutiérrez, Jürgen Damm, Dieter Villalpando (Diego Buonanotte 54′), Ariel Nahuelpán (Abraham Darío Carreño 54′).
Tigres: Nahuel Guzmán, Jesús Dueñas (Iván Estrada 82′), Hugo Ayala, Juninho, Jorge Torres Nilo, Damián Álvarez, José Francisco Torres, Egidio Arévalo, Édgar Gerardo Lugo (Guido Pizarro 46′), Hérculez Gómez (Hernán Darío Burbano 46′), Joffre Guerrón.