Monterrey vs. Tijuana: Final score 2-1 in a wild one

Kiyoshi Ota

In a wildly entertaining back and forth match, Monterrey came out on top over the Xolos of Tijuana, winning 2-1.

The first 20 minutes were a very back and forth affair. Dorlan Pabon missed a sitter of an open net after an outlet pass saw him clear past every defender save for one. Xolos had several chances of their own, mostly from the wings and off corner kicks. The first 30 were a stellar example of pretty passing and poor finishing, coupled with a few ugly tackles, particularly from Tijuana.

Around the 33rd minute, Xolos' put together another passing sequence that picked Monterrey apart, but Fernando Arce didn't pass the ball to any number of open players and opted for a long range shot. It was an excellent sequence that Arce wasted due to either indecision of lack of peripheral vision that should have alerted him to open teammates.

The first half belonged to Xolos. They were better organized, their passes were more dangerous, and despite their laughably missed opportunities, were generally better at creating easily squanderable chances. USMNT fans will be happy to know that Edgar Castillo did an admirable job for Xolos, with his runs and passing giving the Rayados' back line headaches.

Monterrey tried their best to outdo Xolos' organization and shot shanking, but they couldn't manage to get as close. in fact, they really didn't do much of anything for most of the half. Los Rayados had a tough time containing Tijuana's speed and tenacity, allowing the Xolos too much space on the wings to operate in. Their defense was out of sorts as well, and at no point did they look secure and organized. If Pabon, Castillo, or the rest of the Xolos forwards had put their finesse boots on, Monterrey almost certainly would have given up a goal or two.

The few opportunities they had came from set pieces. There was a pretty ambiguous penalty shout when Humberto "El Chupete" Suazo went down under a challenge inside the box, but the official waved it off and didn't look particularly interested in hearing complaints.

The second half began with no changes, though an initial burst of energy from Monterrey was visible, and it would go on to be the main theme of the half.

A dangerous free kick early on by Monterrey only three yards from the penalty box saw Suazo yet again barely miss a good chance, as his free kick cleared the wall and missed the goal by only a few feet.

Monterrey definitely got their act together to start the half, as they took over the game and by the 61st minute it was all Rayados, all the time. Pabon continued skying shots with reckless abandon, dismantling the few chances that Tijuana did manage to create.

The roles completely reversed. Tijuana's prior creative spark and energy evaporated, and Monterrey's midfield completely overran Xolos. Then, all of Monterrey's midfield adjustments and tactical shifts paid off.

In the 77th minute, a fantastic run down the left wing by Neri Cardozo saw him get close to Cirilo Saucedo's net, but the angle was so sharp it looked undoable. Cardozo didn't shy away and somehow managed to slot in a perfectly struck ball that just barely grazed the right post before going in. As terrible as they looked in the first half, they looked equally excellent in the second half, and now they had the goal they looked so unlikely to bag to start the match.

Trailing by a goal, Xolos could barely hold it together until wildly, in the 88th minute, their fortunes turned around. Some nifty passing and terrible defending saw Paul Arrilo alone at the top of the box while the two centerbacks were chasing Pabon, and his strike found the back of the net.

But things didn't end there. Barely a minute later, Suazo scored, and just like that, the Xolos' ecstasy at drawing level was wiped away. Ecstasy to agony in less than one minute, thanks to the genius of El Chupete Suazo and the rest of the Rayados' midfield.

Monterrey, who looked so listless and awful in the first half, ran the Xolos off the field completely and took the three points as deserved winners.

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