The Tijuana Xolos played their fourth game in the Liga MX 2018 Apertura on Sunday, Aug. 12 at the Estadio Caliente against Cruz Azul.
The encounter was set to be an enticing one from the beginning, and it was mixed with some controversy along the way as well. The clash started off intensely as both teams had a few altercations and physical duels to start it off. This led to Pablo Aguilar getting two yellow cards in a span of three minutes and leaving Cruz Azul with 10 men from the 22nd minute of the match. The second yellow was very controversial as it seemed like the punishment did not fit the crime, which did cause outrage by the Mexico City team.
In the 27th minute, Pedro Caixinha had to readjust his team by bringing on defender Igor Lichnovsky for striker Martin Cauteruccio. Cruz Azul had begun the game with a 4-2-1 formation, but was now using a 4-4-1 formation without Pablo Aguilar. Club Tijuana consequently had more possession, but really failed to take the reigns of the game as Los Cementeros did stay dangerous. The first half ended scoreless, but both teams made for an exciting matchup at the Mictlan and goals would surely come in the second half.
The goals did not come until the final minutes of the game as Miller Bolanos gave the Xolos a 1-0 lead in the 79th minute with a header off a cross by Omar Mendoza. The goal sparked controversy as it is still unclear even after several replays if the sphere crossed the goal line. The away team felt targeted by the match officials, and this even caused an altercation between the two teams that led to Cruz Azul’ goalkeeper Jose de Jesus Corona pushing Xolos’ keeper Gibran Lajud.
All that matters is that the goal did count and the Xoloitzcuintles practically had the win secured up against Cruz Azul with 10 men. However, the final minutes would not be easy for the home team and the visitors would bring it back with a goal by Gerardo Flores in stoppage time. The goal came even after Diego Cocca tried to be defensive and maintain the lead by bringing on defender Hiram Munoz for striker Juan Martin Lucero in the 86th minute.
The goal came from a header by Flores off a cross by Adrian Aldrete on a free kick. The final moments of the match were intense, but the score was unchanged and both teams had to split the points at the Estadio Caliente. There are some draws that can feel like losses, and this was definitely one for the Border City Dogs as they had everything to win it in front of their home crowd, but ultimately failed to do so. In his post-game press conference, Xolos’ manager expressed his discontent, and also acknowledged that the team failed to create many opportunities.
With the tie, the Aztec Canines now have five points and are currently still out of the playoff picture in 10th place. The team will need to make adjustments to be more competitive in the league as Diego Cocca tries to find his ideal starting 11.
Yup! That's a good one.
— FOX Sports San Diego (@FOXSportsSD) August 13, 2018
Xolos’ Starting Lineup: Gibran Lajud, Omar Mendoza (70’ Rubio Rubin), Julian Velazquez, Juan Carlos Valenzuela, Luis Fuentes, Jesus Angulo (52’ Erick Torres), Diego Rodriguez, Diego Gonzalez, Ignacio Rivero, Miller Bolanos, Juan Martin Lucero (86’ Hiram Munoz)
Diego Cocca went with a classic 4-4-2 diamond formation with Diego Rodriguez serving as a defensive midfielder and Diego Gonzalez being a more attack-minded player. It is clear that the Argentine manager has still yet to find his ideal starting 11 as there are some talented and intriguing players that did not play in this match. This Includes Fabian Castillo, who was on the bench, but was not called upon to play in the encounter.
Main Talking Point: Offense
The Xolos offense failed to generate much play, and this is very worrying against a team that played with 10 men for most of the encounter. The Xolos finished the match with 58-percent possession, but just six shots on target, which is only one more than Cruz Azul. As mentioned before, Diego Cocca does still have a lot of other options to work with, but this is still a problem that has been consistent this season.