History boosts Tigres in Liga MX Apertura final

Action from the first leg of the Liga MX Apertura final between Tigres (blue jersey) and host Club America on December 22, 2016, in Mexico City. (Photo: Luis Licona/Straffon Images)

MEXICO CITY, Mexico – After drawing 1-1 with host Club America in the first leg of the 2016 Liga MX Apertura final on Thursday, history appears to be on Tigres’ side as it pursues a fifth domestic crown.

UANL struck for the first goal as France international Andre-Pierre Gignac netted off a brilliant individual effort in the 45th minute.

As history has shown, that strike may prove fortuitous.

In the three previous Liga MX deciders that Tigres has contested since head coach Ricardo Ferretti’s arrival in 2010, it has scored first in each series, emerging as champion twice.

In the 2011 Apertura final, Damian Álvarez’s scored the only goal in the first half of the first leg as Tigres upended host Santos. UANL triumphed 3-1 in the second leg.

In the 2015 Apertura final against Pumas, Gignac’s first-half penalty conversion in the first leg set the table for a 3-0 victory. UNAM won the second leg 4-1, but Tigres ended up prevailing 4-2 on penalty kicks.

Nevertheless, UANL is well aware that it cannot rely solely on history in Sunday’s second leg at the Estadio Universitario, especially since Gignac departed the opener with apparent head and lower-back injuries. His short-term availability is questionable.

“It is going to be a totally different game,” said Tigres winger Jurgen Damm. “We are going to come out with everything. We feel like we didn’t give what we expected to, but we carry with us the advantage that we didn’t lose and now can close it out at home.”

Ferretti conceded that a nearly three-week layoff – due to Club America’s participation in the FIFA Club World Cup -- left Tigres a little rusty.

“I think it’s a coin flip,” Ferretti said. “We got a draw not playing well at all. I have the confidence and the hope that we will improve football-wise and that we can get a better result than what we got today.”

The only Liga MX final that Tigres hasn’t secured under Ferretti came against Club America in the 2014 Apertura, when it won the first leg 1-0 on Joffre Guerron’s 63rd minute goal, only to fall subsequently, 3-0, on the road.