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Tigres in championship glory

December 12, 2011

UANL Tigres sealed their first championship since 1982 with a 3-1 victory over Santos in the second-leg final of Mexico’s Apertura 2011 soccer league on Sunday.

Having secured a 1-0 victory in the first-leg on Thursday, Tigres weathered a brief Santos comeback but eventually romped home 4-1 winners over both legs.

An intriguing final pitted the league’s strongest defense (Tigres) against the most dangerous attack (Santos), but ultimately it was indiscipline that cost the latter side as they received three red cards over 180 minutes of play.

Thursday’s game in Torreon took off to an explosive, high-tempo start. Tigres claimed an early lead when Damian Alvarez burst into the penalty area and unleashed a strong shot past goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez, while Santos hit the crossbar moments later.

Disaster struck for the home side in the 23rd minute when Santos midfielder Juan Pablo Rodriguez saw red for a kick to the groin of Manuel Viniegro. An all too-common blight of the Mexican game, the red card killed off what had been a lively opening to a promising match.

An uneventful second half was duly played out with both sides seemingly content to maintain the slim deficit and regroup ahead of the decisive second leg.

With a 1-0 lead and home advantage, Tigres went into Sunday’s game in Monterrey as firm favorites.

The odds narrowed in their favor as Santos again found themselves down to ten men, this time after just 12 minutes, when Sanchez conceded a penalty and duly received his marching orders.

Replacement goalkeeper Miguel Becerra became an instant hero by saving the resultant spot-kick and Santos soon went on to take the lead, with Oribe Peralta leveling the tie on aggregate in the 31st minute.

Despite having drawn first blood, Santos, who have now finished runners-up in three of the past four finals, crumbled in the face of a second-half Tigres onslaught.

Chilean Hector Mancilla headed home in the 57th minute to restore Tigres’ aggregate lead, before Brazilian Danilinho gave the side breathing space when his 63rd minute strike sneaked past Becerra at his near post.

Santos’ Felipe Baloy was then sent off for a dangerous challenge, while Tigres’ Israel Jimenez was also dismissed for his role in the ensuing altercation.

With celebrations already underway, Alan Pulido wrapped up the win with a third goal for Tigres, three minutes from time.

It was a deserved victory for a dominant Tigres side who conceded just three goals in their last ten games of the season.

“I’ve never been a champion here, thanks to God we did it,” said Mexican international Carlos Salcido, currently on loan to Santos from English club Fulham. “It’s what the fans deserved.”

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