The Tijuana Xolos played to a 3-2 loss against Pumas UNAM at the Estadio Caliente to begin the 2023 Apertura season. There were some positive moments in the game for Club Tijuana, specifically by some of the new players, but it was all for not, as the three points were lost.
The Xoloitzcuintles had the first big opportunity of the match, as a shot by Christian Rivera smashed the post in the 23rd minute. In the 25th minute, Pumas UNAM scored the first goal of the match when Ulises Rivas took advantage of a rebound to open the scoring. A shot by Eduardo Salvio was stopped by Jose de Jesus Corona, but Rivas was in the perfect position on the rebound to score.
Shortly after the goal, Club Tijuana’s Nicolas Diaz was subbed out of the match, as he had previously crashed heads with teammate Kevin Balanta. Diaz was taken to the hospital straight away for precautionary reasons, and the extent of his injury is unknown at the time of writing. Alan Vega made his Liga MX debut in place of Diaz, playing left-back and shifting Rafael Fernandez to centre-back.
Both teams had some goalscoring opportunities in the dying minutes of the first half, as the game remained entertaining at the border city fortress. In the 45th minute, Lucas Rodriguez had a shot that went just wide and to the right of Pumas’ net.
In the 48th minute, Club Tijuana was able to tie the game via Fernando Madrigal’s first-ever goal with the Xoloitzcuintles. The scoring play started when Lucas Rodriguez passed the ball to Madrigal, who fired a shot that was deflected and found Alexis Canelo. Canelo’s shot was saved by Julio Gonzalez, but Madrigal was able to have another shot, and this time it found the back of the net. The goal was checked for offside via VAR, which evaporated more than four minutes of the match. Madrigal is not much of a goalscorer, as he had no goals for Necaxa last season in 16 games, but this time he was able to score in his first-ever official game with Club Tijuana.
The first half ended in an exciting 1-1 draw at the Estadio Caliente, but there was still much more to come in the second half. In the 47th minute, Club Tijuana took a 2-1 lead with a goal by new signing Carlos Gonzalez, who scored off a first-time shot off a cross by Alexis Canelo. Rookie Alan Vega did a fantastic job recovering the ball on an interception to start the scoring play.
The lead lasted a little over 20 minutes for the Aztec Canines, as a penalty was called in favor of Pumas. In the 70th minute. Juan Iganacio Dinenno scored from the penalty spot to tie the game yet again at the Estadio Caliente. When it seemed that the game was going to end in a deadlock, Pumas struck one last time in the 89th minute with a goal by Eduardo Salvio. “Toto” scored off a potent shot from inside of the penalty area after receiving a pass by youngster Jorge Ruvalcaba.
The game ended 3-2 in Pumas’ favor and, unfortunately, also ended with some violence in the stands, as Club Tijuana and Pumas fans had a brawl just below the press box area. Xolos’ supporters group is currently serving a five-match ban for violence dating back to last season, and this was very unfavorable to see in the first match of that ban.
Club Tijuana started the season with a left foot but will look to get back on track in Week 2 against Necaxa away from home.
Jose de Jesus Corona, Diego Barbosa, Kevin Balanta, Nicolas Diaz (31′ Alan Vega (90+’ Kevin Castaneda)), Rafael Fernandez, Christian Rivera, Fernando Madrigal (71′ Ivan Tona), Alejandro Martinez (76′ Braian Romero), Lucas Rodriguez, Alexis Canelo, Carlos Gonzalez
Legendary former Xolos’ manager Antonio Mohamed talked about how it was like returning to the Estadio Caliente with Pumas UNAM. “It’s always nice to return to where you were happy; it’s unfortunate that I always return as a rival.” Mohamed received an ovation by Xolos’ fans before the match started and even took the time to give some fans some attention.
“The fans have to understand that the team worked to win the game. We turned it around, we were attacking, and it was not an easy rival. But at the end of the day, just ask for their support. Let them know that the team will be fighting for the top spots”, Miguel Herrera said after being asked if he had a message to the fans.
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.