Scoreless draw against Leon obliterates Tijuana Xolos’ playoff hopes

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Xolos vs Leon 2023
Credit: Jeremy Collins/EVT Sports

The Tijuana Xolos played their final home game of the Liga MX 2023 regular season this Friday, April 21, against Leon. The game was set to be a heated one given the rivalry between the two teams that dates back to the days when both teams played in the Mexican second-tier league.

There was definitely tension between both sets of fans and this resulted in a brawl outside of the Estadio Caliente before the match started. The brawl included fans from both teams and left some people injured and picked up by the authorities. The situation was not handled the best as the gates to the stadium closed and there was panic to try and get inside.

Hopefully the new Fan ID system that the Liga MX has implemented will help identify those involved so that they can receive the proper punishment from the league and Club Tijuana.

The game started with fast pace and back and forth scoring opportunities from both teams, but the rhythm quickly changed when Oscar Villa received a red card in the 13th minute of the match. The Leon defender tackled Fernando Valenzuela harshly and the referee took a look at the replay with VAR and decided to give Villa the red card. Unfortunately Valenzuela came out of the game with a serious injury that saw him in crutches after the match as he was replaced by Lucas Rodriguez in the 15th minute.

Club Tijuana had the man-advantage on the field, but were being dominated by Leon in the first half. Goalkeeper Antonio Rodriguez saved Club Tijuana like he has all season and came up with some vital saves. The first came in the 26th minute when the Mexican shot-stopper saved a long-range shot by veteran midfielder Elias Herandez.

Rodriguez also saved a shot by Victor Davila in the 39th minute as he was keeping the border city club in the match. In the 43rd minute, Ismael Govea almost had a tremendous blunder as he tried to pass the ball back to the Xolos keeper, but he almost ended up putting the sphere in the back of the net.

The score remained scoreless at the Mictlan by the end of the first 45 minutes as Xolos had a goal by Braian Romero disallowed just before the end of the first half. The game was not going in Club Tijuana’s favor despite being a man up as Leon managed to get four shots on target in the first 45 compared to Xolos’ lone shot on target.

Miguel Herrera was not on the sidelines due to a suspension, but was kept in contact throughout the match via walkie talkie. It was very surprising that Club Tijuana did not decide to make any changes until the 63rd minute when Lucas Cavallini and Kevin Castaneda replaced Leonel Lopez and Joaquin Montecinos.

The second half did not see many clear scoring opportunities for either team, just a lot of opportunities that did not go anywhere. Despite being the man down and having much less of the ball Leon still had the best opportunities of the second half, but were plundered by Antonio Rodriguez.

Frustration grew heavily at the Estadio Caliente as the home fans added pressure and not in the best way towards the end of the match. The Xolos’ fans sang the infamous goalkeeper chant that has been banned across Liga MX and were close to having the game suspended. However, the chant only made it to phase one of the protocol and the game ended uninterrupted and anticlimactic in what was a bleak game at the Mictlan.

After earning a point from the game, Club Tijuana remains in 15th place now with 16 points with a game to go. Making the playoffs is not impossible, but now it would require a minor miracle from a team and staff that seems to be just looking to turn the page and move on to next season with a firm project in place.

Antonio Rodriguez xolos vs leon 2023

Player of the match: Antonio Rodriguez

The Xolos’ goalkeeper had one of his best performances of the season making eight total saves against La Fiera, four coming from inside of the box. The Mexican keeper keeps on proving why he has received recent call-ups to the Mexican national team and he definitely deserves a start at some point of the year with El Tri.

Xolos Lineup: Antonio Rodriguez, Nicolas Diaz, Lisandro Lopez, Ismael Govea, Francisco Contreras (70’ Alejandro Martinez), Federico Lertora, Leonel Lopez (63’ Kevin Castaneda), Fernando Valenzuela (15’ Lucas Rodriguez), Joaquin Montecinos (63’ Lucas Cavallini), Braian Romero, Alexis Canelo

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