Columbus Crew topple Tigres in penalty kicks to reach Champions Cup semifinals

Columbus Crew topple Tigres in penalty kicks to reach Champions Cup semifinals

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Columbus Crew reached the semifinals of the Concacaf Champions Cup after their 2-2 (4-3) penalty shootout victory over Mexican giants Tigres.

After the first leg ended in a 1-1 draw at Lower.com Field, many expected Tigres to return to their home ground to finish off the reigning MLS Cup winning Crew. Tigres managed to snatch an away goal in the first leg, meaning a goalless draw would’ve seen them progress to the semifinals.

The game couldn’t have started any better for Tigres at Estadio Universitario. A rare error from the Crew’s Patrick Schulte saw the legendary striker Andre-Pierre Gignac pounce to give the hosts a 1-0 lead inside three minutes. The Crew could’ve faltered and ended their Champions Cup run, but Diego Rossi’s 59th-minute strike meant they had other plans.

Both sides were unable to find a second goal in the last half hour of play as well as extra time, meaning penalties would decide who advanced to the next stage of the competition.

Schulte would end up getting his revenge on Gignac, saving the opening penalty attempt from the veteran Frenchman. Schulte managed to keep out Guido Pizarro on the very next attempt to propel the visitors to a 4-3 triumph in the shootout, a historic moment for Wilfried Nancy’s team and for MLS as a whole.

Speaking to the media, Nancy explained how he prepared his team leading up to the clash: “I have a sentence that I like to say to my players, ‘Expect the expected.’ What does it mean for me? We told them that we know it’s going to be difficult because we’re playing away, big crowd, big stadium, good team.

“The idea is that we know that, but I want them to also compete with themselves and play the football that they do and be who you are. That’s why it’s been the way we’ve been since the beginning when I took the team – it’s all about us,” he said.

Nancy went on to relay how proud he was that his team stuck to their principles and played with “personality” against one of the best teams in North America.

“We respect the opposition and we try to adjust certain things depending on what kind of style of play we’re going to face, but at the end of the day, we try to play our football. Today, yes, I’m really proud of the way we played, but for me the most important is we played with personality. For me, this is something that is really important because yes, we conceded the first goal, we wanted to play, but this is again the way we want to do things,” said Nancy.

The Crew, now through to the semifinals of the Champions Cup, will face off against Club America with a trip to the final on the line. The other side of the Champions Cup bracket sees Inter Miami take on Monterrey, with the Mexican giants holding a 2-1 advantage after the first leg.

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