The Tijuana Xolos hosted Toluca at the Estadio Caliente on Thursday, May 10 for the first leg of their Liga MX Clausura 2018 semifinal series against Toluca. The Aztec Canines were going into this game as the underdogs and the final result at the Mictlan was not expected. Club Tijuana came away with a surprising 2-1 win against Los Diablos Rojos and the result did provoke some mixed feelings within Tijuana’s fanbase.
The atmosphere at the Estadio Caliente was vibrant as the Xolos’ supporters group, “La Masakr3”, started off the match with a spectacular display. “La Masakr3” had asked fans to bring flags to the stadium via Facebook, and this did work beautifully as a large portion of the Zona Sur was filled with flags and banners.
The Xolos looked like the better side from very early on and did get a 1-0 advantage 27 minutes into the match. Juan Martin Lucero opened up the score with a powerful strike from just outside the penalty area after a masterful one-two between Luis Angel Mendoza and Miller Bolanos. The first half ended with the Border City Dogs on top, and the second half started with the home team adding to its lead. Juan Martin Lucero scored his second of the night to make it a 2-0 game in the Xoloitzcuintles’ favor. A long punt from goalkeeper Gibran Lajud found Gustavo Bou up the field and Bou gave the sphere to his countryman, Lucero, inside of the penalty area. The Argentine striker had another perfect finish to double Xolos’ lead in the opening minutes of the second half.
That second half turned out to be the most intense 45 minutes of play that the Estadio Caliente saw all season. Diego Cocca’s men picked up six yellow cards in the game, and all six came in the second half of the encounter. The Prehistoric Dogs frustrated their opponent, and as a result, there was a lot of pushing and shoving towards the end of the match. Toluca managed to pull a goal back in stoppage time as Fernando Uribe surpassed Gibran Lajud’s net. The fans were clearly upset after the home team allowed that late goal and some even went on to throw objects to the field.
The match ended 2-1 and Los Rojinegros and Los Escarlatas did get into a scuffle with each other after the final whistle that even involved both managers. The Xolos players were clearly bothered by the officiating throughout the match and did give the refs a piece of their mind at halftime and after the clash.
Regardless of the officiating in the match, the Xolos came away with a crucial win heading into the second leg of this series. The Xolos now can get through to the final of the Clausura 2018 with any tie or win in Toluca this Sunday, May 13. That encounter should be very intense and bring more of the same flavor and vibe that was seen at the Estadio Caliente on Thursday night.
Man of The Match: Juan Martin Lucero
— @Xolos_En (@xolos_en) May 11, 2018
Picking the man of the match was not a challenge in the slightest with the type of performance that Juan Martin Lucero had. The Argentine striker finished the game with two goals, and even more astonishing was the fact that Tijuana had four shots on target in the game and three came from Lucero. The 26-year-old had a less than impressive regular season with just three goals, but became a figure in the first leg of this series.
Main Talking Point: Away Goal
There were plenty of mixed reactions across the internet and at the Estadio Caliente by Xolos’ fans on the result. Yes, the Xolos did get the win, but Toluca also managed to get a vital away goal in the dying minutes of the match. That away goal means that Los Diablos Rojos can advance to the final with just a narrow 1-0 or 2-1 win in the second leg. The mixed reaction to the win is fair, but the win should not be taken lightly as the Border City Dogs do have the edge and do control their own destiny heading to the Estadio Nemesio Diez.
Francisco, 26, Chula Vista/Tijuana. I have been a Padres fan all my life, did most of the series previews and recaps in the Padres’ 2016 season for EVT. Now I focus more on the local soccer scene. Tijuana Xolos, San Diego Loyal, San Diego Wave.