If ever a club needed a win entering a match, it was Tijuana. After a week that saw the club thrown into turmoil and their biggest rival come to town, Xolos were able to leave all of that behind them and defeat León by a score of 2-1.
Before the game started, there were several fights that broke out between fans of the two clubs in the area surrounding Estadio Caliente.
There is simply no place for this sort of behavior.
During the actual match, Xolos showed in a 4-4-2 formation that dropped Alejandro Donatti in favor of pushing Juan Iturbe and Nacho Malcorra out wide and pairing Damián Musto with norteamericano Alejandro Guido in the central midfield.
Stylistically, the play was completely different than it had been under Eduardo Coudet. Coudet’s team relied on quick, constant passes to keep the opposition off-balance. New manager Diego Torres was content to eschew the Tijua-taka style for a more fundamental, possession-oriented attack. Xolos took their time on the attack - something that was unconscionable under Coudet.
León was content to play physically, committing a foul mere seconds into the match to help set the tone. They also seemed content to let Xolos run at them, absorb the pressure, and try to get something going on the counter. It didn’t take long.
In the 17th minute, Juan Cornejo played a perfect give and go down León’s left. Matías Aguirregaray bit hard on the inside, freeing up Cornejo who continued outside, and he uncorked a blast from about eight yards out that beat Gibran Lajud far post and put the visitors up 1-0.
In the 23rd minute, Pantera Bou would have a good look at goal when Nacho Malcorra’s hold-up allowed him to get daylight in the box. But León goalkeeper William Yarbrough was up to the task, slapping the shot away. Bou also tried a shot from distance in the 36th that would have beaten Yarbrough but his shot went just wide of the top corner.
In the 43rd minute, there was a bit of controversy as Mauro Boselli was sprung in the box by a ball over the top. With his back to goal, it looked like Topo Valenzuela may have tugged him down, however no foul was called.
In the second half, Xolos showed a little bit more life than in the first half while León was content to sit back and let Tijuana punch themselves out. In the 60th minute, Juan Lucero was able to get one past Yarbrough, however it was (correctly) called offside by the AR. Lucero was all alone in the box and had a good look at goal on a header in the 65th minute that went wide of the net.
In the 68th, Xolos would threaten again when Alejandro Guido was able to hit Miller Bolaños on a cross, but Bolaños’ shot from close range was right at Yarbrough, who smothered it. Minutes later, Pantera Bou drove into the box and was fouled by Cornejo.
The referee didn’t hesitate even an instant to call the penalty. Nacho Malcorra went to the spot, and stutter-stepped his way up to the ball, hit it cleanly, and got his second goal of the Apertura.
In the 79th minute, Lucero would put Xolos up when he was able to get onto the rebound of a Bou shot that Yarbrough was unable to fully control.
León never regained their composure after the first goal, and the second goal made things that much worse for La Fiera. Off of a free kick, Andrés Mosquera hit a header that missed the net by mere inches.
In the 88th minute, Mosquera (American football) tackled Lucero in the box, and the referee whistled for the penalty.
Pantera Bou would take the kick, attempt a panenka that Yarbrough was able to smack up and over the crossbar. It wouldn’t matter though, as Xolos would hang on for the much-needed win.
It’s hard to understate how much the subs that Diego Torres used changed the match. The three quick subs gave Tijuana a spark and some energy going forward, and León was not able to compensate for the changes. To be clear, this is not an indictment of Chacho Coudet or any of the players that came off. But it was good to see subs impact the match in ways that haven’t necessarily happened for Xolos this season. Javier Torrente’s slow reaction to sub in players should also be highlighted
Xolos have another meat-grinder of a week, facing Pachuca in the Copa MX quarterfinal on Wednesday in Pachuca before heading to Toluca to face Diablos Rojos on Sunday. León will host Chivas in their final regular season match of the 2017 Apertura.
Club Tijuana: Gibran Lajud; Damián Pérez, Juan Carlos Valenzuela, Víctor Aguilera, Matías Aguirregaray; Víctor Malcorra, Alejandro Guido (Luis Mendoza, 72’), Damián Musto, Miller Bolaños (Joe Corona, 77’); Juan Iturbe (Juan Lucero, 59’), Gustavo Bou
Club León: William Yarbrough; Juan Cornejo, Ignacio González, Andrés Mosquera, Iván Piris (Álvaro Ramos, 82’); José Rodríguez, Fernando Navarro; Andrés Andrade (Maximiliano Cerato, 84’), Luis Montes (Alan Cervantes, 90’), Elías Hernández; Mauro Boselli
Scoring: Club Tijuana - Víctor Malcorra (72’), Juan Lucero (79’); Club León - Juan Cornejo (17’)
Disciplinary: Club Tijuana - Damián Musto (Yellow - 61’), Miller Bolaños (Yellow - 63’), Matías Aguirregaray (Yellow - 82’); Club León - Andrés Andrade (Yellow - 5’)