The Tijuana Xolos played their 13th match in the Liga MX Clausura 2018 this Sunday as the Aztec Canines played Veracruz at the Estadio Luis “Pirata” Fuente.
The atmosphere on Easter Sunday in the port city was vibrant as the entrance to the game was completely free. Over 25 thousand fans filled the venue in support of the struggling Tiburones Rojos in their fight to evade relegation.
The Border City Dogs were due for a tough game despite Veracruz’s struggles especially without a player like Damian Musto in the midfield.
The atmosphere, the absence of Musto, the referee and the humid weather in Veracruz all played a role in the encounter that led to the Xolos’ downfall. Veracruz opened the score very early in the 15th minute with a header by Miguel Angel Murillo off a corner kick by Osmar Mares.
Guillermo Vazquez closed all gaps after the goal and played defensively to seal Tiburones’ victory. Los Jarochos’ defense and especially goalkeeper Meliton Hernandez helped secure the three points from the clash. Hernandez finished the match with six saves and was a brick wall that the Xoloitzcuintles could not get past.
The game ended in controversy as Club Tijuana was given a penalty in stoppage time and then match official Jorge Isaac Rojas decided not to award the penalty after consulting the play with his assistant referees. It seemed as if the Xolos are destined not to score away from home this season as the game ended 1-0 in Los Escualos’ favor.
— Xolos (@Xolos) April 2, 2018
Xolos’ Lineup: Gibran Lajud, Omar Mendoza, Juan Carlos Valenzuela, Pablo Aguilar, Damian Perez, Ignacio Malcorra, Alejandro Guido (40’ Luis Chavez), Ignacio Rivero, Luis Angel Mendoza(58’ Gustavo Bou), Miller Bolanos, Jose Garcia (67’ Juan Lucero)
The formation seemed like a 4-2-3-1 for Diego Cocca and the lineup worked and did manage to produce some dangerous scoring plays throughout the 90 minutes. Alejandro Guido filled in for Damian Musto in the midfield but struggled up against the physicality of the Veracruz players and the weather in the port city. The San Diego native was taken out of the game after just 40 minutes because of his struggles and was replaced by Luis Chavez. Gustavo Bou also played in his first game since picking up an injury that kept him out of four Liga MX games. The dangerous Xolos’ attack had Bou, Juan Lucero, Ignacio Malcorra and Juan Lucero all on the field at one point and still failed to score a goal. A big factor was the performance put in by Meliton Hernandez as it almost seemed like external forces were keeping the Aztec Canines away from the score sheet.
Man of The Match: Meliton Hernandez
The former Mexico international goalkeeper had six saves in the game and was the main reason why Veracruz came away with the three points from the clash. One of his best saves from the encounter came in the 53rd minute when he denied Miller Bolanos, another notable save came in the 70th minute when he stopped a potent strike by Luis Chavez. The Xolos have been haunted by goalkeeper performances this season like in the CCL by New York Red Bulls’ Luis Robles and Meliton Hernandez was a daunting reminder of that.
Decisive Moment: VAR
The Prehistoric Dogs did not find glory on Easter Sunday but were rather handed an April Fool’s joke by the match officials. In stoppage time, referee Jorge Isaac Rojas called a penalty in the Xoloitzcuintles’ favor after Meliton Hernandez took out Juan Lucero inside the penalty area. The referees then disallowed the penalty in a bizarre call that caused chaos. There is no VAR (Video Assistant Referee) in the Liga MX yet and the calling on the play was ridiculous. The Xolos’ players responded with anger towards the officials and the Veracruz players as a scuffle broke out towards the end of the match. This was the second incident of this nature that the Aztec Canines have suffered as a goal was disallowed by referee Fernando Hernandez last year in a game against Chivas de Guadalajara.
Main Talking Point: Offensive Road Struggles
The referee stole the show in Veracruz but it still does not change the fact that the Xolos have been struggling massively on the road. The border city side has not won a road game in the Liga MX in 2018 and is still yet to score a goal away from the Estadio Caliente. Los Rojinegros have now not scored a goal on the road in 630 minutes and it is worrying heading into the final stretch of the season. Three of the last four games for Club Tijuana are at home but this form on the road will surely guarantee failure in the playoffs. Diego Cocca’s men are still hanging on to a playoff spot currently in eighth place with 17 points and will need some points out of their next two games against Atlas and Chivas de Guadalajara.