Atlético de San Luis came back from a goal and a man down to grab a share of the points against Tigres on Saturday afternoon. The game ended 1-1, but it will be the hosts who feel much better about the result than the visiting champions.
The game started with neither team showing much fluidity in their passing. The Alfonso Lastras stadium had been used for a non-football event just a few days before and the pitch showed some wear and tear that hampered the players from linking up well.
The clubs traded corner kicks and hard fouls for the first half hour. San Luis midfielder Noé Maya picked up a yellow card in minute 21. But truth be told, a few players from both sides could have been booked as well.
It wasn’t until minute 22 that Tigres really threatened the San Luis goal. The referee awarded a free kick that looked to be a little too far to have a direct attempt at goal. However Eduardo Vargas thought otherwise. He sent a powerful shot that short-hopped right in front of San Luis goaltender Carlos Rodriguez. The goalie did well to parry the fierce Vargas shot to safety.
In minute 34, Enner Valencia collected a pass on the right side. An agile turn saw him rush to the edge of the box, leaving Dionicio Escalante in his wake. Valencia’s low cross, intended for Tigres’ supreme danger man Gignac, didn’t arrive to its intended target. Rodriguez again saved San Luis, this time by a matter of centimeters. His fingertip save diverted the ball away from the deadly Frenchman.
A peculiar play right on half time saw three Atlético players behind the Tigres defense and unbelievably, with an open net. Classy Argentinian defender Matías Catalán couldn’t believe his luck. He had a yawning open goal and two unmarked teammates to pass to. Incredibly, he decided to go for glory himself but instead his soft side-footed effort hit the post and went out of play. His teammates, and the 25,000 fans in the stadium, looked skyward in utter disbelief.
Tigres had the better of the ball in the first half, but it was San Luis who would have felt disappointed for not taking advantage of their last-second open goal chance.
The second half started brightly for the hosts. One minute into the half, Striker Nico Ibañez (on loan from parent club Atlético de Madrid) sharply headed the ball toward the Tigres goal. Guzmán was up to the task and made a spectacular save, deflecting the sure goal away from the corner of his net.
Atlético made a like for like change on the hour when Germán Berterame replaced Ian Gonzalez. Gonzalez worked hard all game but was starved for service from the midfield, often having to drop back deep to get the ball.
VAR featured yet again in an Atlético game. And just like last week versus Chivas, the video replay went against San Luis. In minute 70, midfielder Camilo Mayada tackled Luis Quiñones. In real time it didn’t look to be overly rough, but when slowed down it was clear to see that Mayada stepped on the Tigres attackers’ ankle. It was not intentional, but the referee made the correct decision to give Mayada a direct red.
In minute 74, Hugo Ayala directed the resulting free kick toward goal. His header hit Atlético defender Joaquín Laso and was in the back of the net.
15 minutes on the clock, Tigres up a man, and one nil to the good. One would be excused for thinking the game was over at that point.
Matías Catalán, who had earlier missed an open net, redeemed himself with a stellar counter-attacking move. He rushed up the right side of the pitch all the way into the Tigres box, cut the ball back into the middle to an unmarked Berterame. The Argentinian striker made no mistake, coolly slotting the ball into the corner of the Tigres goal. Nahuel Guzmán had no chance.
The score was 1-1 and San Luis was more than happy to snatch a draw from the jaws of defeat. They defended well and ran out the 90 minutes as well as seven minutes added time.
Tigres usually start the season slowly. That is still no excuse for blowing a late lead while having a man advantage. Their head coach Tuca Ferretti said as much during the post-game press briefing. He added that he thought both teams played poorly.
San Luis, meanwhile, will be ecstatic with this result. The team has managed a decent start in their first year in Liga BBVA MX, accumulating four points from 4 games. Head coach Alfonso Sosa stated post-game that opening the season against Pumas, Monterrey, Chivas, and Tigres is no easy feat. The team continues to grow in confidence and seem to understand that they can indeed compete with the best. This result against the defending champions of Mexican football will only enhance their self-belief.
Man of the Match: Matías Catalán