The Tijuana Xolos had a disappointing start to their playoff run as the Aztec Canines suffered a 3-1 loss to Leon in the first-leg of the quarterfinal series. The atmosphere was vibrant and intense at the Estadio Caliente as the Xolos’ fans were excited about a potential cup run.
That hope and excitement fizzled out for the fans as Leon proved to be the dominant team on a cold night in Tijuana. Leon started off the scoring with a goal by Jose Juan Macias in the 31st minute. The Xolos were very aggressive at the beginning of the match, but the team’s intensity going forward quickly phased out towards the end of the first half.
In the second half, the Xoloitzcuintles were a lot more aggressive and that paid off as Gustavo Bou tied it up in the 46th minute of the match. The goal started with a horrible defensive mistake by Leon’s backline as Miller Bolanos recovered the ball and crossed the sphere into the penalty area.
Ariel Nahuelpan received the ball inside of the penalty area and passed the ball to Gustavo Bou, who put the sphere in the back of the net. However, the Xolos were not able to take advantage of that momentum as Diego Braghieri scored an own goal in the 65th minute.
Leon had a 2-1 advantage, which quickly became a 3-1 lead after a goal by Rubens Sambueza in the 70th minute. The Argentine midfielder fired a powerful shot that beat Gibran Lajud and sunk the Xolos’ chances of advancing to the next round of the playoffs.
Advancing to the semifinals will be almost impossible as the Xolos will need to win by at least three goals away from home in the second-leg. Leon was the heavy favorite heading into this match and the difference in quality between both teams was more than evident on the pitch.
The Xolos will again be underdogs in the second-leg and even more considering that the game will be away from home. Regardless of the result, the Xoloitzcuintles massively overachieved expectations this season along with manager Oscar Pareja.
Xolos’ Lineup: Gibran Lajud, Luis Martinez (73’ Luis Chavez), Julian Velazquez, Diego Braghieri, Luis Fuentes, Diego Rodriguez, Ignacio Rivero, Jesus Angulo (67’ Fabian Castillo, Miller Bolanos, Gustavo Bou, Ariel Nahuelpan