The Tijuana Xolos played their third game in the Liga MX 2018 Apertura on Sunday, Aug. 5, at the Estadio Caliente. The Aztec Canines hosted Leon in what was set to be a very intense match due to the history between the two teams that has created a bit of a rivalry.
There were fans from both teams, which really made for a fantastic atmosphere at the Mictlan, and added to the intensity. Once the lineups were announced, there were not many surprises for the Xolos, as Diego Cocca reverted back to the two-man strike partnership of Erick Torres and Juan Martin Lucero. Miller Bolanos was back after serving a suspension and went on to be one of the main antagonists in the clash.
Leon had a makeshift backline for the game as centre-back Miguel Herrera was replacing right-back Fernando Navarro, who was serving a one-match ban. The Aztec Canines were very aggressive from the initial whistle and earned a penalty in the 13th minute. Miller Bolanos stepped up to take the penalty, but was denied by Leon’ goalkeeper Rodolfo Cota as the game remained scoreless. The game then took a drastic turn as Xolos’ midfielder Luis Chavez received a red card in the 38th minute. Club Tijuana did not abandon its style of play and really tried to be the protagonist in front of the home crowd. However, it was very tough to do this with 10 men on the pitch and Leon took advantage of this and scored in the 52nd minute. William Tesillo crossed the ball into the penalty area and Walter Gonzalez was on the end of the cross to head the ball in the back of the net and make it a 1-0 game.
Diego Cocca kept on trying to attack and replaced Erick Torres with Eryc Castillo in the 57th minute. Cocca then made his second substitution of the encounter in the 69th minute by taking out Diego Rodriguez and bringing on Diego Gonzalez. These changes did make an impact on the game, especially Castillo going forward, which added to the attack. In the 73rd minute, the Border City Dogs came back and tied up the clash with an unlikely goal by fullback Luis Fuentes. Eryc Castillo started the play and passed the sphere to his countryman, Miller Bolanos, who then passed it to Fuentes, who released a potent strike from outside of the box that found the back of the net.
— @Xolos_En (@xolos_en) August 6, 2018
The game stayed intense in the final minutes of the clash as both teams had a few opportunities that almost changed the scoreline. In the 89th minute, Leon almost managed to beat Gibran Lajud for the second time, but Omar Mendoza came through with a spectacular goal-line clearance after making an error in Leon’s first goal. The result was a decent one for Los Rojinegros, but was definitely not the best one for Los Esmeraldas.
Xolos’ manager Diego Cocca did seem disappointed with the result in the post-game press conference as he emphasized that it is important to get wins at home. Club Tijuana now improves to four points on the season and is currently sitting in 10th place after the first three games of the 2018 Apertura.
Xolos’ Starting Lineup: Gibran Lajud, Omar Mendoza, Julian Velazquez, Juan Carlos Valenzuela, Luis Fuentes, Miller Bolanos (84’ Jesus Angulo), Diego Rodriguez (69’ Diego Gonzalez), Luis Chavez, Ignacio Rivero, Erick Torres (57’ Eryc Castillo), Juan Martin Lucero
The strike partnership of Erick Torres and Juan Martin Lucero did not seem to work this time around. Eryc Castillo really seemed to add much more to the attack when he replaced “Cubo” Torres, as he contributed to the Xolos’ game-tying goal. The defense looked solid once again while the midfield was not the best, with Luis Chavez picking up a red card and Diego Rodriguez not doing much of anything in the clash.
Man of The Match: Gibran Lajud
Gibran Lajud had been quiet in the Xolos’ first couple of games this season as he had not been tested much at all. However, the Mexican goalkeeper was very busy in this game against Leon and did make a heavy impact on the final score. The 24-year-old had six saves in the game and stood out more than his teammates on the day.
Main Talking Point: Red Card
The Xoloitzcuintles will have a very tough Week 4 match against Cruz Azul, the current league leaders. Luis Chavez picked up a red card in this clash and will not be available for that match, which could be a significant loss in the midfield for Diego Cocca. The Argentine manager does have Diego Gonzalez at his disposal to fill that role, but Chavez had been having a solid season so far.