UANL Tigres fans celebrating. Tigres takes on Santos Laguna in the second leg of the 2011 Apertura Liguilla final on Sunday, December 11, 2011.

UANL Tigres Vs. Santos Laguna, 2011 Apertura Liguilla Final: Tigres Win 4-1 On Aggregate

UANL Tigres have broken a 30-year championship drought, seeing off 9-man Santos Laguna 3-1 at home and winning the Apertura Liguilla final 4-1 on aggregate.

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UANL Tigres Vs. Santos Laguna, 2011 Apertura Liguilla Final: Tigres Win 3-1, 4-1 On Aggregate

It's a great day to be an UNAL Tigres fan. Their club are Liguilla champions after beating Santos Laguna 4-1 on aggregate (they won the first leg 1-0), snapping a title drought that had spanned almost three decades in the process. The result was fully deserved after a series of fantastic performances  - they didn't even concede a goal in the tournament until the 30th minute of this match - and on the day they were clearly better than their opponents.

The fact that Tigres had the man advantage for almost the entire game helped, of course, with Santos goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez dismissed only a few minutes after kickoff for a reckless lunge on Danilinho, but the hosts wouldn't have been counting on a surreal first half that saw substitute Miguel Baccera save a spot kick and Lucas Lobos have a goal disallowed for kicking Osmar Mares in the back of the head. They certainly wouldn't have been expecting to go into the interval 1-0 down, but Santos did extremely well to fashion an opportunity, with Jose Maria Cardenas and Oribe Peralta combining to give the visitors an unlikely lead.

It looked as though Santos Claus could be coming to town for the away supporters, but order reasserted itself in the second half and Tigres, who were looking excellent despite being a goal down, were finally able to convert their dominance into goals. Hector Mancilla got them level on the night and back ahead on aggregate with a header just after the break, and from that point all resistance collapsed. Danilinho sealed the deal shortly after the hour mark, and substitutes Alan Pulido put the cherry atop the cake with a last minute strike to make it 4-1.

In the interim, the game had continued to be a bit odd - a miniature fracas broke out midway through the half that ended up with both Santos captain Felipe Baloy and Tigres defender Israel Jiminez sent off - but without the threat of a completely unexpected Santos win, it was far less entertaining than the first period. Congratulations to Tigres on their championship, and well done to the losers for making things far more interesting than they had any right to be. It would have been fun to see 180 minutes of football without all of those sendings-off and suspensions, but it would be silly to claim that Tigres's win wasn't deserved.


UANL Tigres Vs. Santos Laguna, 2011 Apertura Liguilla Final: 1-0 Santos After Insane First Half

Well, as far as entertainment goes, this is already one of the most watchable football matches of the year, in any league. Asa reminder, Santos Laguna entered the second leg of the 2011 Apertura Liguilla final 1-0 down on aggregate to UANL Tigres, having lost the first game at home. UANL Tigres were yet to concede a goal in the whole tournament, and hadn't lost a home match all season.

Then five minutes into the game Mexico national team legend Oswaldo Sanchez managed to get himself sent off for a two-footed lunge on Danilinho*, and things went from 'impossible' to 'super-impossible' for the visitors. Carlos Darwin Quintero was hauled off to allow substitute goalkeeper Miguel Beceara to come on. His first action was to save the penalty, flinging himself to his right to deny Lucas Lobos from the spot.

*Some are claiming that this was neither a penalty nor a red card, because Danilinho was in the air at time of contact. While this is true, it just means that the Tigres man should have been booked for simulation as well.

The aggregate score had been kept manageable, but Santos - who spent most of the first leg down to ten men as well - were still in real trouble. Tigres are a difficult enough opponent at home with with all eleven players on the pitch. And then, a miracle happened.

Carlos Adrian Morales burst down the left wing, and with Jose Maria Cardenas making a far post run and screaming for the ball, he lashed in a brilliant low cross that evaded everyone, including a diving Enrique Palos. Cardenas could have opted to take a very difficult sliding shot, but instead managed to play a reverse pass straight to Oribe Peralta, who smashed home from four yards.

Somehow, with half an hour gone the final was level. Tigres spent the next quarter of an hour trying to score, and nearly managed it a fair few times. Lobos almost made up for his penalty miss by smashing the ball into the back of the net with a brilliant scissor volley only to kick Osmar Mares in the face in the process, forcing referee Rodriguez Moreno to disallow the effort. Moments later, Santiago Hoyes came within a foot of scoring an own goal while attempting to cut out a pass.

But so far, Santos have held out. Advantage, of course, is still with Tigres - they are at home and they're playing with a man advantage. But the momentum is with the visitors. Can they pull off a stupendous comeback win?


UANL Tigres Vs. Santos Laguna, 2011 Apertura Liguilla Final: Lineups

Santos Laguna have a lot of work to do if they're going to have any hope of winning 2011 Apertura Liguilla Final. They've lost the first leg at home to UANL Tigres and now have to travel to the Estadio Universitario, where their opponents haven't lost at home all season. Since the Liguilla began, UANL haven't even conceded a goal. Can Santos throw their best players at the problem? Nope, because their captain, midfielder Juan Pablo Rodriguez, is suspended for attempting to rupture Manuel Viniegra's testicles with his studs last time out.

In other words, things don't look too happy for the visitors. But hey, might as well play. You never know what'll happen...

Tigres de la UANL lineup (4-4-1-1): Enrique Palos; Jorge Torres Nilo, Hugo Ayala, Juninho, Isreal Jiménez; Damian Alvarez, Carlos Salcido, Manuel Viniegra, Danilinho; Lucas Lobos; Hector Mancilla.

Santos Laguna lineup (4-4-2):
Oswaldo Sanchez; Jorge Ivan Estrada, Santiago Hoyos, Felipe Baloy, Cesar Ibanez; Jose Maria Cardenas, Osmar Mares, Rodolfo Salinas, Carlos Adrian Morales; Carlos Darwin Quintero, Oribe Peralta.

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