Sleeping Tigres awake to top Chivas, join playoff hunt

Julio Cesar Aguilar
The reigning Liga MX champion improved Tuesday, but it's too early to know if the team has solved its issues in time for a postseason push.

Andres-Pierre Gignac scored two headed goals for Tigres as the sleeping beast roared to life Tuesday night at the Volcan with a 3-0 win over Chivas.

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Nobody doubts that Tigres is one of Liga MX's most talented teams. The reigning champion runs deep. One Mexico international goes down in Jurgen Damm, another becomes fit again in Javier Aquino, whose two assists (including an absolute stunner, sending a ball to the top of the box with the outside of his foot) helped key the victory.

The other keys were the home team's center backs keeping former Tigres star Alan Pulido from finding the ball in dangerous areas and, oh yeah, this Gignac guy.

As insane as it may seem to forget about the player who won the Golden Boot in the 2016 Clausura and has been such a presence for Tigres since his arrival in summer 2015, he hasn't done much memorable this season. Prior to Tuesday's double, Gignac had just two goals, each coming in a game against a team fighting relegation. 

Andre-Pierre Gignac Tigres

Gignac appears to be turning his season around and so are Tigres. The team may be within a victory of the playoff positions when the midweek make-up games – played this week after a referees' strike forced league officials to postpone Round 10 – draw to an end Thursday.

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The fact they're not there already is a bit ridiculous, but it's the situation Tigres find themselves in. Gignac is not alone among talented attackers failing to find the back of the net, and issues replacing injured right back Luis Advincula plus Nahuel Guzman still looking shakier than usual in goal after returning from injury had the team well out of the top eight. Tigres entered the midweek game with 13 points from 12 matches and after the win sit two points from the eighth and final playoff position, though a dozen teams are still to play this week.

Orbelin Pineda Chivas Lucas Zelarayan Tigres

Yet, it's a bit early to say Tigres have awakened from their slumber. Chvas sat second in the league this weekend, but this match was one coach Matias Almeyda seemed content to drop points in. After a Saturday game at home against Puebla and a trip to Pachuca approaching Saturday before next week's Copa MX final, the Argentine coach swapped out all four of his starting defenders.

That left inexperienced Miguel Basulto at right back, and Aquino's eyes lit up from minute one as he victimized the reserve. Damm's return from injury as a substitute didn't slow the pace.

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Tigres also have a busy calendar between league matches and the two-legged CONCACAF Champions League final agianst Pachuca, but coach Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti didn't have the same luxury to give players some time to rest their legs. Tuesday's contest was as close to a must-win as you can get without it being mathematically true. The match is won, and there's evidence Ferretti's men will wipe the sleep from their eyes and continue a push into the postseason.

But it's still too early to know whether they'll attack with vigor or roll over and go back to sleep, falling into the same lazy patterns that have them sitting this low in the table in the first place.

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