The Tijuana Xolos started off their Liga MX 2018 Apertura season this Saturday, July 21, with a victory at home against Chivas de Guadalajara. The game ended 2-1 in the Xoloitzcuintles’ favor as goals by Juan Martin Lucero and Ignacio Rivero propelled the home team to the three points. The clash was split by two very distinct halves as the first half was uneventful and sluggish while the second half offered three goals in it and a very enticing display.
The game was scoreless after the first 45 minutes of play as a very vibrant, jubilant and loud Estadio Caliente were offered a poor display of soccer on the pitch. The Xolos especially struggled to create much of anything going forward in the first half while Chivas seemed like the better team. That all changed in the second half as Diego Cocca managed to motivate his players to get back on track at the interval.
Juan Martin Lucero finally opened the score at the Mictlan in the 53rd minute with a header that found the back of the net off a corner kick. Erick Torres provided a headed assist to create the goal and give the border city side the slight lead. The lead did not last long as Chivas struck just six minutes later with a goal by Josecarlos Van Rankin. Diego Cocca had made his first substitution of the match just minutes before that goal as Rubio Rubin came on for Jesus Angulo.
The intensity of the second half stayed consistent on the pitch and in the stands as fans from both teams made for a thrilling atmosphere at the Estadio Caliente. Half of the crowd then burst into cheers at the 74th minute as Ignacio Rivero gave the Xolos a lead that would last until the final whistle.
Chivas lost all hope of a comeback in the 79th minute when midfielder Michael Perez received a red card. Diego Cocca slowed down the game by replacing striker Erick Torres with midfielder Diego Gonzalez, but then took advantage of the red card and brought out Eryc Castillo for Luis Chavez in the 86th minute. The exciting and upbeat attack with Rubio Rubin and Eryc Castillo almost extended Xolos’ lead, but the score just remained the same until the end of the duel.
The extra man on the pitch really helped Diego Cocca’s side maintain the lad and the result was a magnificent one to start off the new season. Chivas is one of the biggest teams in Mexico even if not much is expected from Los Rojiblancos this season. There is still that pressure of facing a team like Chivas present and it is always nice to start off with three points.
A lot of players stood out on the night as the game could have easily been a more lop-sided result had it not been for Chivas’ keeper Raul Gudino. The new artificial turf at the Mictlan also seemed to have made an impact in the game as there was one specific play where Chivas’ Angel Zaldivar slipped on an attacking play. The game was an exciting one to kick off the new season and the fans certainly did not disappoint with a sold-out crowd and fans from both teams that made for a spectacular atmosphere.
The night ended with the Xolos winning, fireworks and the tune of Bohemian Rhapsody to start off the Xolos’ 2018 Apertura season.
— Francisco Velasco (@FranciscoEfV) July 22, 2018
Xolos’ Starting XI: Gibran Lajud, Omar Mendoza, Julian Velazquez, Juan Carlos Valenzuela, Luis Fuentes, Jesus Angulo, Luis Chavez, Diego Rodriguez, Ignacio Rivero, Erick Torres, Juan Martin Lucero
Diego Cocca just used a standard 4-4-2 for the game, which is a formation that he is very comfortable with. The strike force of Erick Torres and Juan Martin Lucero worked very well despite it consisting of two very similar players. The defense and Gibran Lajud were solid while the midfield was easily the best component on the field for the Xoloitzcuintles.
Man of The Match: Juan Martin Lucero
A lot of players for Xolos had outstanding performances like Erick Torres, Luis Chavez and Ignacio Rivero, but there was one clear standout. Juan Martin Lucero stole the show with a goal and an assist as his positioning and headers on the night were pin-point. “El Gato” is a natural goalscorer and he showcased that against Chivas as his season looks promising if he can stay consistent.