Pachuca extended its extraordinary record in CONCACAF’s annual club championship, winning the 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League: the fifth regional club title it has won since 2002 - and the fifth final it has contested in that time.
Despite their perfect record in the final round of this competition, Los Tuzos were not favorites for this year’s title. UANL was in its third major international tournament final. After losing the 2015 Copa Libertadores final and the 2015-16 CCL final, surely this was Tigres’ year? Surely, it wasn’t.
Entering the second leg of this year’s CCL final, Pachuca and Tigres were tied, 1-1. That result favored Los Tuzos, who would play 90 minutes at home with the tie-breaking advantage of an away goal.
The second leg was a relatively even game, with both sides earning and spurning chances.
But the separating factor was not so much shots as fouls, in particular fouls by Tigres on Pachuca, and more particularly still, two fouls by Guido Pizarro. The game turned on a pair of yellow cards handed out to Pizarro - one in the 66th minute and the second in the 78th.
The foul that got Pizarro sent off was on Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, whose breakaway speed Tigres addressed mostly by hacking, tripping, and otherwise obstructing the Pachuca forward whenever necessary. The sight of Lozano’s acrobatic tumbles whenever he felt an interruption to his movement was so common over both legs that Pizarro couldn’t complain too much about the referee’s decision: Lozano hits the deck at the slightest invitation, and a player already on a yellow card might think a little more carefully about testing the ref’s ability to resist the inevitable result of contact with the Pachuca flyer.
Watching their teammate get sent off for his tangle with Lozano and the fact that the rest of the team was racking up yellow cards played its part in the goal Tigres conceded. Six minutes after Pizarro’s dismissal, the UANL defense backed off Lozano, allowing him to loose a shot on goal that ‘keeper Nahuel Guzman spilled, and Franco Jara tapped in.
Even after conceding in the 83rd minute, Tigres were not out of it: they still needed just one goal to tie the series and push the final into extra time. In the last minute of injury time, Andre-Pierre Gignac had the ball in the net, but he was offside.
The final whistle blew on a 1-0 win for Pachuca, handing the club its fifth regional club championship with a 2-1 win on aggregate.
The title was well deserved. Pachuca’s defense, including USA international Omar Gonzalez, was immense in both legs of the final.
Pachuca ‘keeper Alfonso Blanco won the tournament’s Golden Glove award; Hirving Lozano was this year’s CCL top scorer; Franco Jara won the Golden Ball award for best player.
Tigres’ attack misfired at the wrong moments - most tellingly, perhaps, in the first leg when the chances not taken included a missed penalty.