CONCACAF Champions League: Tigres U.A.N.L Survive Real Salt Lake And Advance To Semifinals
Tigres U.A.N.L forward André-Pierre Gignac scoring the late goal that equalized the match 1-1 on Wednesday at Rio Tinto Stadium, and eliminated Real Salt Lake from the CONCACAF Champions League. Photo provided by Rick Bowmer-Associated Press.

Tigres U.A.N.L forward André-Pierre Gignac last second goal and Real Salt Lake’s missed opportunities eliminated RSL from the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) on Wednesday night at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Tigres and the Royals played to a 1-1 draw in the quarterfinal matchup, and the Liga MX club is heading to the semifinals with a 3-1 goal aggregate victory after two legs.   

REAL SALT LAKE COMES OUT MOTIVATED

The home club started the match with a 2-0 deficit in the aggregate. That only motivated RSL as they started the game on fire, putting pressure on the defense. However, in the first half their quick movement of the ball did not produce many shots. In the first 45 minutes RSL created three shots and two of them were off target. But the speedy Ecuadorian Joao Plata was able to give the Royals the 1-0 lead at the 22nd minute.

The play began with Juan Manuel Martínez finding a running Yura Movsisyan down the right hand side of the field. Movsisyan continued to run down the flank with the ball and was setting up for a cross. The Armenian international forward sent a low pass that skid of the grass and into the feet of Plata.

Joao Plata (#10) scoring RSL's goal on Wednesday night against Tigres in the second leg of the CCL quarterfinal match. Photo provided by  Rick Bowmer-Associated Press.
Joao Plata (#10) scoring RSL's goal on Wednesday night against Tigres in the second leg of the CCL quarterfinal match. Photo provided by Rick Bowmer-Associated Press.

The five-feet-two-inches striker was surrounded by Tigres goalkeeper Nahuel Guzmán in front of him and a defender behind him. Plata was not intimidated and kept his cool and tapped the ball into the back of the net to cut the goal aggregate deficit in half (2-1) for the Claret and Cobalt.

The home club only needed one more goal and their chances of playing in the CCL semifinals were a reality again.

RSL MISSING CHANCES LEFT AND RIGHT

However, RSL began to be their own enemy on offense. In the second half, there were two clear chances, but they missed them both. The first came at the 55th minute, when Javier Morales chipped a ball into the center of the box. The ball dropped perfectly for Martínez to fire a close range shot.

The Argentinean midfielder attempt to shot, but he missed the ball entirely. The ball continued to bounce to a wide open Movsisyan. He was at the left hand side of the penalty box when he blasted a shot heading towards the roof of the net. The Armenian international forward shot seemed destined to rip the net, but instead it dinged of the crossbar and Tigres was saved.

Movsisyan was in disbelief that the ball did not enter the back of the net, but he and RSL continued to push forward. In the second half alone they created nine of their 12 shots, but the Royals accuracy was off as only four of those of chances were on target.

However, in the 72nd minute the home club was awarded a penalty. The call was wrong though, since Martínez was fouled just outside the penalty box. Regardless, the referee saw a penalty and called one. After the Tigres players pleaded their case for two minutes Morales stepped up to take the PK.

The RSL players were rallying up the fans and Rio Tinto Stadium was buzzing, but in the end Morales penalty was stopped by the keeper. The danger was not over though, as the ball bounced in front of the net and Tigres goalie quickly got to the ball. Morales launched his body towards the ball in a last desperate effort to score, but instead he fouled the keeper and picked up a yellow card.

Tigres goalkeeper Nahuel Guzmán denied Javier Morales penalty in the 74th minute on to keep RSL stuck at 1-0 on Wednesday at Rio Tinto Stadium. Photo provided by Rick Bowmer-Associated Press.
Tigres goalkeeper Nahuel Guzmán denied Javier Morales penalty in the 74th minute on to keep RSL stuck at 1-0 on Wednesday at Rio Tinto Stadium. Photo provided by Rick Bowmer-Associated Press.

Regardless that RSL still had time and only need one more goal to tie the aggregate their momentum was lost. Tigres was starting to wake up and cause trouble for the Royals.

GIGNAC STRUGGLES 90 MINUTES, BUT SINKS RSL IN THE 91ST MINUTE

Gignac was quiet for nearly the entire 90 minutes. RSL’s defense found away to shut down the lethal French international forward with the offside game. The Claret and Cobalt took a risk with the offside approach, but they executed well.

By the end of the match the home club offside strategy paid off as Tigres was called offside six times in the match. Gignac was the victim of RSL’s plan at least four times. The French forward was frustrated to say the least, but his frustration hit its limit in the 61st minute.

Brazilian defender Juninho fed Gignac a through ball into the penalty box. The striker wasted no time and fired a low and powerful shot to the bottom left hand corner to tie the match 1-1. However, before the French international was able to start his celebrations the linesman and the referee called off sides and the score remained 1-0 in RSL’s favor.

The struggles Gignac ended in stoppage time of the second half. Tigres defender Israel Jiménez delivered a cross to a running Gignac from the right hand side near the midfield. The ball dropped right in front of him while he was in full stride.

RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando came running way outside of the box and attempted to clear the ball. However, Gignac without a moment of hesitation moved the ball to his left and passed Rimando.

One defender caught up to him and placed his body in front of the open goal. Again the French international showed his class by quickly bringing the ball back and eluded the defender.

He then passed the ball into the open net to eliminate the Royals from the CCL by tying the match 1-1 in the 91st minute. With this result all four Major League Soccer clubs have been booted out of the CCL by Mexican teams in the quarterfinals. 

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