Hypnotized or not, Andre-Pierre Gignac is back and he's more awake than ever. Wednesday's 1-0 win over Leon in the first leg of the Liguilla semifinals must have been one of the France international's best games in a Tigres shirt.
The fact that Gignac scored the winner earns him all of the plaudits by default, but in truth his role was much more significant. As I've said in the past, TV only shows snippets of games. The broadcast, starting with the camera, follows the main protagonist: the ball. And of course, it's king for the evening.
But on Wednesday, Gignac decided the game against Leon in ways that went beyond a couple of errors that riled up fiery manager Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti. His goal was magnificent. It was a recreation of every football player's most glorious dreams. First, he cushioned a superb pass from Ismael Sosa on his chest. It was a prime example of the telepathy that enables the two to know exactly what the other is doing, even from 40 yards apart.
After being picked out by his accomplice, Gignac took two touches before finishing with his right foot. The feint, the cut inside, picking his placement of the ball, the impact on the scoreline and a potential trip to the finals... All of it was picture perfect.
- LIGA Bancomer MX (@LIGABancomerMX) 1 de diciembre de 2016
Before adding to his rich body of work -- Gignac has scored some goals that should have almost been ruled out due to their rustic beauty -- and even after, his influence on the game was evident.
Gignac won the ball back at the halfway line and even played alongside Guido Pizarro in midfield at times, teeing up Jesus Duenas on a couple of occasions and fueling his desire to score.
Yes, this hypnotized Gignac is more alive than ever.
Was it down to John Milton's hypnosis? Did that have anything to do with it? We may never find out, but what's certain is that after over 800 scoreless minutes, Gignac is back.
The beast is back on the prowl and hopes are high. Gignac took down Pumas with three superb goals -- particularly the first, which he buried coolly -- and is now taking charge of the Mexican football jungle, apparently eager to dethrone the king and confound predictions.
But it should also be noted that "Tuca" Ferretti is right when he says that he doesn't win matches by himself and neither does Gignac. It is only as a part of a collective display that they secure positive results.
Gignac's newfound run of form is good news for Tigres. Hypnosis or not, the fact is that the French striker's unexpected hat-trick display against Pumas helped assuage the fears of many associated with Tigres. Because, for a long time -- for more than a thousand minutes, in fact -- these big cats were toothless. Without Gignac, they were a hopeless caged tiger. Now, apparently, they rule the jungle.
It was also an impressive night for Javier Aquino, Jurgen Damm, Duenas, Pizarro, and especially Jorge Estrada while he was on the pitch. Sosa could have also rounded off a perfect night had he not wasted or spurned a chance that fell to him inside the area.
It would be ridiculous to write off Leon ahead of Saturday's second leg. Javier Torrente's team reacted well to conceding the goal -- controlling possession and forcing a more animated "Tuca" into a tactical reshuffle involving Damm and Aquino. Ferretti knows this, because he's experienced it. He's seen teams come back from seemingly impossible positions.