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Odds via FanDuel Sportsbook.
Pick: Monterrey to win. (-120)
Monterrey were favorites to enter the 2022-23 Liga MX Clausura finals before the first leg, and nothing’s changed after the first-leg draw. Monterrey had an excellent league campaign where they finished six points ahead of second-placed Club America with 40 points.
The first leg was an excellent opportunity for Tigres to get a headstart before playing a difficult away leg, but Monterrey were just too strong for them. Ultimately, ending the match as a draw after going a goal down will be considered a positive. There were times when it looked like the tie was over in the first leg.
We suggest playing it safe for this one. Monterrey showed their superiority this week and should get the job done at home.
The result from the first leg was never going to change Tigres’ superior head-to-head record against Monterrey. Tigres have won 12, lost eight, and now drawn 10 of their 30 matches against Monterrey, but they have failed to beat Monterrey in their last five meetings.
Liga MX fans will remember the 2019 CONCACAF Champions League final when Monterrey won 2-1 over two legs. This two-legged semi-final tie also looks like it’s heading Monterrey’s way.
Both sides looked tetchy at the start of the game; neither team looked to really open up. Tigres started the game by taking a few potshots, but they didn’t really trouble Monterrey keeper E. Andrada. Monterrey were looking to provoke Tigres on set pieces – much of their focus was on Andre-Pierre Gignac, who fell for the provocation and was carded 28 minutes into the game.
Just seven minutes after Gignac’s yellow, things got worse for Tigres as Maximiliano Meza scored from a free-kick that was almost 35 yards out. Tigres keeper Nahuel Guzman should’ve done much better. Guzman was too far off his line and got punished for his recklessness; Guzman did get a hand on the floated strike, but his hand wasn’t strong enough to prevent the ball from going past the goal line.
Monterrey’s ability to switch from free-flowing to cunning has been one of their greatest strengths this season, and it was on full display in the first half. Tigres started the second-half much better partly because Monterrey were happy to sit on their lead. This approach came to bite them as Tigres scored the equalizer just five minutes into the second-half thanks to Sebastian Cordova.
Tigres right back J. Aquino found some space on the flank and played a driven cross into the path of an onrushing Cordova, who timed his volley perfectly. Monterrey keeper Andrada should’ve got a stronger hand onto the volley, but it took nothing away from Cordova’s excellent finish.
Cordova thought he’d scored his second of the evening just 10 minutes later, but he was ruled offside after a VAR check. The call seemed to calm things, as Tigres were no longer as aggressive, and Monterrey weren't all over the place. The match ended 1-1, with everything to play for in the second leg.
This was an incredibly cagey game, with just one team looking to play football. Tigres had 62% of the possession but didn’t trouble Monterrey enough. They took just five shots on goal all game. Monterrey, on the other hand, were incredibly wily. They didn’t have a great share of possession, but they took 10 shots on goal and could’ve even left the game with a win.
There was a sense that Monterrey could’ve played a bit more, as Tigres were there for the taking in the first half. Tigres will come out of this quite disappointed, as they fell for Monterrey’s antics in the first half, and couldn’t convert the momentum in the second half into something more constructive.
Manager Victor Manuel Vucetich will defend how his team played in the first leg and highlight how 1-1 away to Tigres is a great result, but he nearly had egg on his face when it looked like Cordova got his second of the night. When Monterrey played a bit, they always looked like a threat; seeing them waste time in the early minutes of the match was bizarre.
They finished 15 points ahead of Tigres in the league, so it was strange to see them play this game like they were the underdog. They were a bit undisciplined when they lost in the semifinals to Toluca, so it seemed like they were using the same tactics that knocked them out on Tigres this week instead of just playing their natural game.
They’re still the favorites to go through, and playing at home should see them play a lot better. There’s no reason for them to cede as much possession as they did in the first leg or provoke Tigres till much later in the game. They’ve got the defensive and attacking personnel to get the job done.
Tigres didn’t take too many shots on goal in the match, but they showed they’re more than capable of going toe-to-toe with the best team in the league. Monterrey showed Tigres a lot of respect in this game – some of this was due to the fervid atmosphere at the Estadio Universitario, but also because Tigres looked up to it from the first minute.
They won’t have the crowd in the next leg; they’ll need to find another way of going up against Monterrey. One issue that might resurface in the second leg is the lack of service to Andre-Pierre Gignac. Gignac has arguably been the league’s top center forward for the last half-decade, but he hasn’t really been getting the goals in recent weeks and cut a frustrated figure for most of the game. When Gignac is out of sorts, Tigres don’t provide a significant threat in front of goal.
Sebastian Cordova’s been looking far more lively in front of goal in recent weeks, which is a big positive, but the other players need to find a way to get both of them involved in the second leg. Tigres can take some positives from this match – they showed that Monterrey are far from invincible, but this will feel like a missed opportunity.
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With an interest in strategy and mathematics, applying that to sports writing was the natural progression. A writer at night and the founder of a gaming company, Nikhil’s previous experience includes working with ESPN for five years. His specialization includes soccer, basketball, tennis, and esports betting. Email: [email protected]More info on Nikhil Kalro
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