The game of soccer can be the most unfair sport of all.
You can have all of the possession in the world, more shots than your opponent, and play much better, only to lose the game by just one goal. Cruz Azul’s manager, Paco Jemez, described their defeat in Tijuana as “unjust”. This arguably is accurate, but the important thing is that Miguel Herrera and the Xolos secured the three points, now earning nine in the season.
Miguel Herrera went with a 5-3-1-1 formation on Friday night’s game. Gibran Lajud in net, Paul Arriola, and Damien Perez as the wing-backs, with Michael Orozco, Emanuel Aguilera, and Juan Carlos Valenzuela as the center backs made up Tijuana’s defense. The midfield was comprised of Guido Rodriguez in the middle, Victor Ignacio Malcorra out on the left and San Diego man, Joe Corona, on the right. Finally, the strike force featured Aviles Hurtado playing just in behind Milton Caraglio.
The game was really a spectacle to be at, as a sold-out crowd of 27,333 was at the Estadio Caliente on Friday night. You could really tell the presence of Cruz Azul at the stadium with several blue jerseys floating about, and even vendors selling jerseys and flags of the Mexico City team.
The first half of the game left a lot to be desired as there were few chances and no goals to be seen. Out of the gate, Paco Jemez’s team was more dominant within the first 10 minutes of the match. After that, Miguel Herrera and his men really got into the match and made it a hard-fought encounter. The clearest scoring opportunity of the game fell in the 32nd minute for Cruz Azul. A corner nick by Christian Gimenez found the head of midfielder, Gabriel Penalba. The Argentine man ended up heading the ball towards Chilean Martin Rodriguez, who hit the sphere horribly and it landed right in the hands of Gibran Lajud.
After 45 minutes, the best player for Tijuana had to be Paul Arriola, who provided a lot of unnoticed defensive work that made a huge difference in the game. The second half started out much better than the first. The first 10 minutes of the second half already looked more promising than the entire first half. Tijuana’s next chance fell in the 57th minute of the game when midfielder Guido Rodriguez fired a shot towards Jose Corona’s net, but the Mexican goalkeeper had no problem slapping the ball away from danger. The first substitution of the night for Miguel Herrera came in the 71st minute of the game when Henry Martin came on for Milton Caraglio. Caraglio was not impressive in the game as he had few chances and did not find himself in key scoring positions throughout.
Tijuana’s goalie, Gibran Lajud, cemented himself as the player of the game in the 73rd minute. The Mexican keeper made a save from a shot close to the net by Martin Cauteruccio. Then the rebound off the save found Christian Gimenez inside the right side of the penalty area. Gimenez delivered a potent strike, but Lajud again came up big for Miguel Herrera and the Xolos.
A goal finally found the Estadio Caliente in the 80th minute of the match. A free kick fell to Club Tijuana just outside the left-hand side of the penalty area. Victor Iganacio Malcorra conducted the free kick and delivered a cross, which found captain Juan Carlos Valenzuela leaping in between two Cruz Azul players. The end result was the goal which gave Miguel Herrera and the Xolos the three points from the game. The final 10 minutes of the game brought two substitutions for Miguel Herrera. Victor Ignacio Malcorra was replaced for Juan Carlos Medina in order to solidify the defense and maintain the lead for Tijuana. Finally, in compensation time, Juan Martin Lucero replaced Joe Corona, which was just a tactical decision to burn a few seconds of what remained of the match.
The game ended 1-0 for the Tijuana Xolos with captain Juan Carlos Valenzuela scoring his first ever goal for the club. “Unjust” or not, Miguel Herrera and the Xolos have now amassed nine points and remain in first place in the Clausura 2017 tournament as well. Fuerza Tijuas!