The Tijuana Xolos played their 10th game of the Liga MX Apertura 2017 this Tuesday, Sept. 26, hosting Tigres UANL at the Estadio Caliente.
The game was set to be one of the best games in the eleventh round of matches in the Liga MX as both teams were living great moments and have very solid sides. The kickoff was set for 9:15 P.M. PST, which did affect the attendance as the Estadio Caliente fell short of a sellout at 25,333 spectators.
The atmosphere at the Mictlan was worthy of the magnitude of the game. There was a surprisingly high number of Tigres’ fans at the stadium that added to the vibrant setting. Before the game started, both teams showed their solidarity and respect for the Earthquake victims in Mexico. The display consisted of both teams mixed together for a moment of silence where the players raised a fist as a symbol of respect. Then staying together for the Mexican national anthem, finally standing in front of a banner that read, “Now more united than ever”.
Eduardo Coudet went with a 5-3-2 formation initially, but did make changes as the game went on. Gibran Lajud started in net with the back line of Matias Aguirregaray, Juan Carlos Valenzuela, Alejandro Donatti, Emanuel Aguilera, and Damian Perez. The midfield was made up of Ignacio Malcorra, Enzo Kalinski, and Juan Manuel Iturbe, while the front two consisted of Miller Bolanos and Gustavo Bou. Club captain Juan Carlos Valenzuela was back from injury, while Enzo Kalinski filled in for the suspended Damian Musto. Initially, Coudet was pressing Tigres UANL hard in the attack, which left Kalinski isolated in the midfield. The Argentine manager must have noticed this as the game progressed and placed Ignacio Malcorra as a center midfielder to support Kalinski.
The first half was filled with excitement and intensity as both teams used distinct tactics to try to wear each other out. Five minutes into the game, Andre-Pierre Gignac almost made it a 1-0 game for Los Felinos on a header, but a spectacular save by Gibran Lajud kept the score leveled. Ricardo Ferretti demonstrated patience while “Chacho” Coudet pressed to get a goal in the game. The Aztec Canines came close, but never capitalized on any opportunity. At times, the team seemed frustrated, attempting hopeless shots from outside of the box. The frustration grew in the first half as Xolos’ Matias Aguirregaray and Tigres’ Enner Valencia got into a physical altercation that included some shoving in the 31st minute of the match. “Chacho” switched up his formation as the half progressed, finally settling on what seemed to be a 5-2-3 formation with a few players free roaming. The first 45 minutes ended with a very intense atmosphere on the pitch, but a 0-0 scoreline.
The second half of the encounter started fairly slowly and did not seem as promising as the first. Both teams seemed conservative and unwilling to take many risks to avoid making a mistake that could cost the game. In the 52nd minute of the game, the first goal of the match finally fell as Tigres UANL got the 1-0 advantage. The goal was the product of a cross by Javier Aquino that found Eduardo Vargas inside of the Xolos’ penalty area. Vargas released a potent strike off a one-timer that found the back of Gibran Lajud’s net. Nothing much transpired for the Xolos as the half went on, but there were a few decent opportunities. Coudet brought on Luis Angel Mendoza for Juan Manuel Iturbe in the 62nd minute, which did have a slight impact on the game. Iturbe had been practically non-existent in the second half and “Quick” Mendoza brought energy the team. A peculiar substitution then happened in the 80th minute, as “Chacho” replaced Matias Aguirregaray for Juan Carlos Nunez. The change was an uninspiring man-for-man change that did not add anything to the team. Perhaps Coudet was just taking precautions to prevent Aguirregaray from being sent off with a red card.
The clearest chance of the game for Club Tijuana fell in the 83rd minute, Ignacio Malcorra came close to scoring off a free kick, but the shot hit the crossbar. The game finished 1-0, unjustifiably, as the Xolos had put in a performance to at least get a point out of the game. In his post-game press conference, Eduardo Coudet said, “Soccer-wise we were more”. Several other players also expressed frustration and felt the result was unjust for the effort the team had put in. Coudet showcased his frustration, saying, “I don’t like losing points, especially at home” and “We need time and work, but it’s not an excuse”. Several players had positive performances in the game, and the entire defense looked solid, especially Alejandro Donatti, who won five out of eight duels in the game. Donatti even tried to contribute to the attack in the final minutes of the game, playing up front to try to whip in a header for a goal or an assist.
Another standout was Enzo Kalinski, who put in a shift filling in for Damian Musto with an 86-percent pass accuracy and 13 of 21 duels won. Kalinski’s performance showcased the massive depth of Club Tijuana, and Eduardo Coudet may consider starting him in future matches. Along with the bright spots, there were players that disappointed, like Juan Manuel Iturbe and Miller Bolanos, who seemingly added nothing to the attack. Gustavo Bou also had a sloppy performance, getting a few shots on target, but most attempts being ineffective and weak. The team certainly has potential to defeat a team like Tigres UANL in the future, but will need to keep on adjusting as Eduardo Coudet looks for an ideal starting lineup once again. The Xolos next task will fall this Friday, Sept. 29, as the border city side will travel to Michoacán to face Monarcas Morelia.