Tigres and Pumas serve up classic Liga MX Apertura final
What. A. Game.
As finals go, you are unlikely to get one as epic, unpredictable and satisfying as on Sunday, as Tigres defeated Pumas 4-2 on penalties to win the Liga MX Apertura 2015, despite losing the game 4-1 after extra time.
Here are five takes from a classic final and season:
1. The best team won
Nobody really expected Pumas to get anywhere close to taking Tigres to extra time.
The university side from Mexico City had been outplayed and outscored 3-0 in the first leg last Thursday. Even manager Guillermo Vazquez failed to come up with an explanation for such a shambolic performance and the second leg seemed like a foregone conclusion.
On the other side, Tigres came into the second leg off the back of four consecutive clean sheets and were a model of confidence and calm.
There was no logical explanation, therefore, for what followed as Pumas won 3-0 over 90 minutes, swatting Tigres aside as if they were a team from a lower division.
Even after Andre-Pierre Gignac appeared to have won it for Tigres in extra time, Gerardo Alcoba netted one minute from the end to equalize and take the game to penalties.
Sunday was clearly not the best example of Tigres' strength, but they still ooze quality and this Apertura was a rare occasion in which the strongest side in the league got the job done and actually won the title.
From goalkeeper Nahuel Guzman -- an Argentina international -- to France striker Gignac, via Guido Pizarro, Jurgen Damm and Javier Aquino, Tigres boast the Liga MX's best squad and starting XI.
While there was almost a major blip in Sunday's final second leg against Pumas, Tigres have taken the regular season and Liguilla by storm ever since they lost the second leg of the Copa Libertadores final against River Plate back in August.
The side has become a well-organized and functioning machine, grinding down opposition. Over the five playoff games ahead of the final's second leg, Tigres conceded just once and went 430 minutes without receiving a goal until Eduardo Herrera's opener on Sunday.
Tigres remain an example for others to follow, with coach Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti handed time to assemble a squad during his five years at the helm.
2. Liga MX is wild
Let's put any negative thoughts about defensive discipline and organization to one side for a second. Using those concepts as criteria, the Liga MX may be far from the number one league in the world, but what it does provide in bucket-loads is attacking football and entertainment.
Sunday's game was as good as it gets. Not many matches anywhere in the world can have equalled it in terms of entertainment in 2015. Tigres were clear favourites, Pumas pegged them back, then Tigres took over, before Pumas took the game to penalties. It was an unpredictable rollercoaster of a game.
While the different system of competition -- two tournaments per calendar year, each with its own playoff -- mean the Liga MX isn't the easiest to get into for someone not brought up with it, night's like Sunday are the reward for those that do spend the time to learn the basics. There are plenty of goals, storylines, characters and crazy finishes.
3. The year of 'El Tuca' comes to a satisfactory conclusion
This was Tigres' third final in the last 12 months and while the club from the state of Nuevo Leon lost the Apertura 2014 against Club America and then the Copa Libertadores final in August, Sunday was Ferretti's crowning moment.
This was the year Ferretti also took over the Mexico national team on an interim basis and guided the side past the United States and to a ticket to the Confederations Cup 2017 in October.
Leading Tigres to the club's fourth title seals a memorable year for Ferretti, who has managed in Mexico's top division for almost 25 consecutive years.
4. Pumas leave with heads held high
Pumas fans, players and coach Guillermo Vazquez will have been distraught after coming away from Sunday's second leg as runners-up. It really was a Herculean performance from Pumas to level a three-goal deficit and dominate a Tigres side that no team has defeated since Puebla back in September -- a run stretching back 12 matches.
The club will have won new fans on Sunday and the players wore their hearts on their sleeves in a famous display that came so very close to being one of the best comebacks in the history of Mexico's first division.
It wasn't quite enough, but regular season leader Pumas can feel proud of their Apertura season.
5. More Gignacs, s'il vous plait
The French striker appeared to have won the title for Tigres with his extra time goal and did play his part with an authoritative penalty kick in the shootout.
However, Sunday's game wasn't his best, although that doesn't take any gloss off the impact Gignac has had on the Mexican game in his debut season. The 30-year-old has played with attitude, scored 15 goals in 21 matches and his quality has shone through. Off the field, he has been a model pro and talked positively about Mexico.
It has almost been forgotten that Ronaldinho was involved in the last Liga MX final for Queretaro against Santos Laguna, but Gignac has already far surpassed what the Brazilian achieved in Mexico.
Liga MX teams have the financial power to bring in more talents of the level of Gignac. Doing so in the near future would be an important boast for the league.
Tom Marshall has been based in Guadalajara since 2008 and has written about Mexican football ever since. Find him on Twitter @MexicoWorldCup.