Tigres are back in the final, and there was nothing untoward about the way it happened. Monterrey won the first leg, 1-0. Tigres won the second leg, 1-0. Tigres advance.
Rogelio Funes Mori was among the Monterrey players who half-heartedly protested to referee Marco Ortiz after the final whistle had blown. Their complaint really was with their own play - or those far above Ortiz's head who make the competition rules.
Rayados knew going into the game that the first tiebreaker for Liga MX semifinals is away goals and the second is better regular-season finish. It's a way for the league to reward teams that prioritize the regular season.
Tigres manager Tuca Ferretti certainly did that. His side was seven points better than Monterrey during the Clausura. Rayados celebrated beating their rival for the Concacaf Champions League title a month ago, but the double was not to be.
Guido Pizarro's emphatic header, which put the ball in the net but also sent him into a defender's head and sent him out of the game after some concerning moments during which he stayed on the ground as the referee and his teammates signaled for medical attention, was enough.
It was only enough, though. Credit to Ferretti, who was worried about his team conceding a second-half goal that would've put Rayados into the final. He brought on winger Jurgen Damm rather than try to shut things down and nearly was rewarded with the second goal with two Damm breakaways going unfinished.
He had reason for concern, though. Nahuel Guzman had to make seven saves to keep the clean sheet Saturday. With Pizarro out injured, center back Carlos Salcedo forced out with injury in the second half and Rayados throwing the kitchen sink at the his defense, it was an escape from Tigres rather than a stroll.
Of course, the game never was going to be easy. We've seen enough meaningful matches between these northern rivals to know the margins will be slim. The last eight meetings have been decided by just one goal or ended in a draw. Rayados played better in a more open first leg, but Rodolfo Pizarro's excellent performance netted just one goal. Pizarro couldn't replicate it in the second leg and nobody could beat Guzman.
"In the first half, we didn't play the game we were hoping for," Monterrey manager Diego Alonso said after the match. "The team didn't produce much and we didn't take advantage of the spaces. In the second half, we attacked a lot more and put their back line to work."
It's a professional way of saying Rayados let Tigres off the hook. So too did Tigres' quarterfinal opponent Pachuca, which the club also moved past thanks to their better regular-season finish. Ferretti knows his team needs to be better if it's going to beat Leon or America in the final.
Next time around, Tigres won't have the luxury of an unimpressive performance. In the final, there is no away goal rule and no way for the higher-finishing team in the regular season to go through. You have to score more goals over two matches.
They did that in the past - did it often. To add another trophy to their considerably full case, Tigres will have to outplay their opponents once again.