The Tijuana Xolos played their ninth game in the Liga MX 2023 Clasusura as the border city team hosted Pachuca at the Estadio Caliente. The match was set to be a hard-fought encounter as Pachuca are the current Liga MX champions, and Club Tijuana has been struggling this season.
However, the Xoloitzcuintles were able to utilize their home-field advantage to perfection and come away with a 2-0 win at the Mictlan. This was the Aztec Canine’s second win of the season and first win under manager Miguel Herrera in his second stint with the team.
The pre-game festivities included a salute to the Mexican flag in honor of Mexican Flag Day as several members of the Mexican military stepped on the artificial turf of the Estadio Caliente to do the honors. Miguel Herrera made some adjustments to his lineup that lost against Club America as Lucas Cavallini and Alejandro Martinez replaced Francisco Contreras and Lucas Rodriguez in the starting 11.
Pachuca came out with a strong lineup that featured former Xolos players Luis Chavez and Aviles Hurtado, who both received an ovation from the home crowd. The first scoring opportunity of the game came in the 11th minute as Fernando Valenzuela maneuvered himself around the Pachuca backline but released a weak shot that was easily stopped by Oscar Ustari. In the 18th minute, Luis Chavez struck a potent shot off a free kick that was saved by Tijuana goalkeeper Antonio Rodriguez.
Xolos’ first goal of the match came in the 25th minute off a corner kick as team captain Lisandro Lopez capitalized on the opportunity. Leonel Lopez executed the corner with a short pass to Fernando Valenzuela, who crossed the ball into the penalty area. The ball was deflected right to Lisandro Lopez, who shot to find the back of Oscar Ustari’s net and give the Prehistoric Dogs a 1-0 advantage.
Club Tijuana’s second goal of the match came just minutes after the first one as Alexis Canelo extended the Xoloitzcuintles’ lead. Lucas Cavallini initiated the scoring play as he made a long pass to Alejandro Martinez, who crossed the ball to Canelo. Martinez’s cross was intercepted by Oscar Ustari, but he was unable to hang onto the ball as Alexis Canelo came in to put the ball in the back of the net.
Fans rejoiced after the second goal as it was the first time all season that Xolos were able to score more than a goal in a game. Xolos kept te attack going as Federico Lertora had a chance off a header from a cross by Leonel Lopez, but the visiting team’s goalkeeper was able to intercept the sphere perfectly this time around.
Pachuca failed to find any successful offensive play as Los Tuzos only had two shots on target in the first half that posed no real danger for the border city team. The current Liga MX champions had better luck in the second half but also encountered some bad luck with two shotas hitting the post.
The first was a header by Aviles Hurtado in the 59th minute off a corner kick that smashed the post just centimeters from going into the back of the net. The second came in the 75th minute as a potent strike from Christian Arango smashed the post and went out of play.
Miguel Herrera employed a conservative approach in the second half to defend the 2-0 lead at the Estadio Caliente. The tactics worked as the Aztec Canines had no shots on target in the second half but were able to hold onto the lead. Pachuca played a frustrating second half with 13 total shots in 45 minutes of play that led to no imapct on the scoreboard.
Herrera’s substitutions also helped to maintain the lead as players like Jair Diaz, Eduardo Armenta, and Luis Felix made a positive impact. The win was a significant one as Xolos are now in 12th place with 10 points after earning the three points against Los Tuzos. Twelve teams make the playoffs in the Liga MX fomat as Club Tijuana now find themselves in a favorable position after a rough start to the season.
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Player of the game
The Xolos’ captain scored the first goal of the night and maintained a notable defensive effort in his 85 minutes on the pitch. Lopez was vital to earn the three points on the night, as he had seven clearances, three tackles, and an interception in the match.
The Canadian striker said after the match, “We’re happy, the team’s effort was shown today. These three points stay at home, and there’s still a lot to work on, but we’re on the right track.” Cavalllini also spoke about manager Miguel Herrera and said, “He changed our mentality. Helped us find another identity on the pitch.”
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.