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Liga MX final hangs in the balance after draw in rain-soaked first leg

08:44 GMT+4 08/12/2017
Andre Pierre Gignac Jose Basanta Tigres Monterrey Liga MX fina
A first leg played in a downpour didn't leave either side with any real advantage as they head to the all-important second leg

MONTERREY, Mexico — The relentless rain and frigid temperatures made the first leg of the Liga MX final difficult on both teams, with each able to find an early goal but not much else in a 1-1 draw.

The game had showed plenty of promise before the waterlogged pitch slowed play, and the contest still didn't disappoint for those who tuned in hoping to see an evenly matched final between two talented teams.

Monterrey manager Antonio Mohamed was succinct in his post-match news conference, speaking for around four minutes while Tigres boss Tuca Ferretti spent 20 minutes in his news conference.

For Mohamed, the Tigres fans weren't a factor because "we got a good result. What we looked for is to decide it at home, we haven’t lost a game there. Now it depends on us to decide things at home. We’re going for the top prize, the trophy. If you told me in June that we’d be at home playing for the trophy, I’d have taken it."

What was a factor were the conditions, with rain turning to freezing rain and leaving ice crystals in patches on the pitch.

"I’ve lived here 40 years and it was the first time I saw a game with this climate. Naturally, I think some of the players, yes, suffered at the start to acclimatize and deal with the field," Ferretti said. "I think it affected both teams, truly, both teams, not just us. I think it would’ve been a better game (with better weather)."

Monterrey got on the board first, taking the lead as it has in every match so far this Liguilla. It took nine minutes for Rayados to silence their neighbors with Nicolas Sanchez nodding Dorlan Pabon's corner past Nahuel Guzman, who protested for reasons unclear after the soft touch applied by his fellow Argentine.

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Tigres quickly answered back thanks to a penalty by Enner Valencia. Monterrey forward Rogelio Funes Mori fouled his counterpart in the area and the Ecuador international not only was confident enough to step up and take it after drawing the foul, but did so with a panenka that floated past goalkeeper Hugo Gonzalez.

The match slowed as the field continued to collect ice and the ball stopped rolling as much as it skated over the blades of grass. Still, a pair of splendid saves either side of the 70th minute, first by Nahuel Guzman using his chest to deny Pabon and later Gonzalez tipping a Jesus Duenas free kick over his bar, kept the fans' attention. Gonzalez was beaten in the 76th minute. but Andre-Pierre Gignac's long-range effort rocketed off the post and Rayados were able to clear. It wasn't the only chance Gignac failed to convert. In the first half, the Frenchman was one-on-one with Hugo Gonzalez but ended up pushing the shot into the crowd rather than putting an attempt on goal.

"A tie with the feeling of a tie. It’s a shame we couldn’t reflect the superiority we had in the game on the scoreboard," Tigres manager Tuca Ferretti said in the post-match news conference. "Naturally there times it happens, other times not as much. Today is one of those days where you’re satisfied with the players did, with what they tried, with what they looked for but not satisfied that the chances we had we weren’t able to finish.

"But I don’t have any regret or anything. I think the only thing we were missing is the goal. We scored one, but I think in the several chances we had, it would be excellent if we could’ve scored one more. I’m confident that hopefully the next game we’ll be more deadly."

With the slick pitch and tempers flaring as soon as the first 15 minutes, the question became who would suffer a blow heading into the second leg. It was answered two minutes before the final whistle as Leonel Vangioni arrived late on a tackle to pick up his second yellow card, meaning he'll miss the second leg. So too will Hugo Ayala, whose silly reckless play in stoppage time results in Tigres being down a center back in the second leg of a second consecutive playoff series. Though Ferretti brushed it off as something that happens in a soccer match and can slot Francisco Meza back into the team, he may privately pull Ayala aside to remind him how foolish that was.

The banned players definitely will be looking on carefully Sunday at BBVA Bancomer Stadium when the trophy is decided 5.6 miles from where Thursday's first leg took place. The forecast calls for better weather, which should lend itself to a better game. It's one that fans shouldn't miss, either, with the game certain to produce another thrilling contest.