Tigres move to semis in unconvincing fashion, Morelia advances controversially

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Julio Cesar Aguilar
The top seeds advanced Saturday thanks to their superior finishes in the regular season in closely fought Liga MX quarterfinal series

The difference between the first two teams in the Liga MX semifinal and the two eliminated at the quarterfinal stage was not large at all. Just how small was it? Both Tigres and Morelia are into the next round thanks to the second tiebreaker, better regular-season finish. 

In the case of Tigres-Leon, at least that was six points. In the series between No. 4 Morelia and No. 5 Toluca, it was just five goals scored during the season with both teams closing out the Apertura with 29 points. 

Let's take a look at what made the difference in each series:


Tigres through but fail to show championship style


Juan Cornejo Leon Eduardo Vargas Tigres

The No. 2 seed Tigres are into the Liga MX Apertura semifinals, but there were plenty of fans biting their nails in El Volcan during the closing minutes. Andre-Pierre Gignac's header gave Tigres the advantage early, but Leon answered with a fortunate goal from a set piece scored by center back Andres Mosquera.

That put the teams back at square one, and Leon knew that a goal would require Tigres to score twice to move on. The goal never came, with Tigres controlling far less of the possession than usual but Leon unable to beat Nahuel Guzman even after Luis "Chapo" Montes came into the game and lifted Leon's attack. The frustration from Leon in not only its own failure to score but in just how beatable Tigres seemed to be was evident.

"We deserved more because of how we played, how we planned the game and how the game went," defensive midfielder Alexander Mejia told reporters after the match. "We quickly understood what the manager and the coaching staff wanted. It was a game where we rediscovered the form we had. It's not coincidence that from "Chapo" coming in they gave us the ball in midfield. I think they sat back, gave us possession, gave us space and we weren't able to finish in the final third. But we're content with how the team gave everything today."

Tigres are into the next round, but hardly convinced against Leon. Manager Tuca Ferretti was incredible confident in his team, which is a virtue in a manager, but things could've gone very differently — and might if his team isn't able to be more assertive in the next round.


Wild start sends Monarcas into semifinals


 Angel Sepulveda Morelia

Angel Sepulveda's goal to give Morelia a 2-1 lead and tie the aggregate series with Toluca was gorgeous. The overhead kick was stunning. It also was offside.

The officials let the goal stand despite Gabriel Achilier's deflection putting the 26-year-old ahead of the entire Toluca back line. There is no doubt about the quality of his finish, though. It was the type of play where the moment of athleticism was so beautiful, there is temptation to overlook any indiscretion.

The goal was just Sepulveda's third league tally since joining Monarcas before the season, but he played a great game Saturday. At least, he did in the first 15 minutes, which proved to be the critical portion of the contest. Things started poorly for Morelia, as Toluca picked up where it left off from the first leg. After scoring two stoppage-time goals in Toluca, Fernando Uribe extended the Red Devils' advantage with a fourth-minute goal. Just a minute later, though, Raul Ruidiaz headed in a cross from Sepulveda to put things back to the same situation they started in — Morelia needing one goal. Sepulveda provided that goal and Morelia's defense was able to frustrate Toluca the rest of the way to get into the next round.

So little separated these teams during the regular season — just five goals made Monarcas the four seed and Toluca the five — and they remained closely matched in the Liguilla. That a referee's decision — or lack thereof — is what eventually decided the series is a shame. 

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