Tigres were the team to beat coming into the Liguilla. So far they’re still unbeaten, as two good goals and a couple of injuries sunk Tijuana.
After a war of words with Xolos coach Miguel Herrera leading up to the match, Tuca Ferretti embraced his rival before the match.
In the 10th minute, Andre-Pierre Gignac made a run into the box. Gibran Lajud came too far off of his line, and Juan Carlos Valenzuela did a great job of defending Gignac one-on-one until Lajud could recover.
Tijuana looked compact in defense, making sure that they had numbers back at all times. Juan Carlos Valenzuela was charged with marking Andre-Pierre Gignac, and did a good job until the 20th minute, when Valenzuela was running down the line defending Jesus Duenas. Topo pulled up a bit and went to the turf clutching his hamstring. He took a cart ride off of the pitch and was subbed out.
In the 29th minute, Lajud came up big, acrobatically swatting away a Duenas header that was destined for goal.
Lajud would go on to make a string of good saves to keep the score level. It wouldn’t last forever though. In the 42nd minute, Lucas Zelarayan took a deflection, flicked it up and over the defender to himself, turned, and shot past Lajud. It was a great piece of individual skill by Zelarayan, and Tigres were up 1-0.
Minutes later just before the half was whistled, Javier Aquino would capitalize on a defensive mistake by Xolos and tip the ball past Lajud to make it 2-0.
Xolos were a bit lucky to escape to the locker room for the half, as Tigres had clearly seized the momentum. In the start of the second half, Xolos seemed to re-take some of the momentum, playing much more to score a goal than to simply defend.
In the 62nd minute Paul Arriola had a good look at goal but Nahuel scooped up the shot to keep Xolos scoreless. In the 79th minute, Aviles Hurtado was subbed off while holding his hamstring. He was later shown sitting with an ice pack on his hamstring, exacerbating fears that he along with Valenzuela may not be able to go in the return leg on Sunday.
Unfortunately for Xolos though, they were unable to come up with the critical away goal and the match ended 2-0 in favor of Tigres. These teams will meet again on Sunday in Estadio Caliente.
Takeaways: Xolos potentially losing Topo Valenzuela or Aviles Hurtado is huge. Xolos potentially losing both men would be disastrous. Xolos fans will be watching intently to see if the men practice this week and are available for selection come Sunday.
Xolos keeping Andre-Pierre Gignac off of the scoreboard is huge. Coming back to Tijuana down two goals isn’t ideal, but knowing they can stifle and frustrate the league’s best player is perhaps something to build on.
Paul Arriola continues to impress. He was one of the few Xolos players who were able to contribute and look dangerous with the ball.
Gibran Lajud also did well. The two goals weren’t his fault, and it could well have been more if it wasn’t for his play.
Tigres: Nahuel Guzman; Alberto Acosta (Luis Advincula, 87’), Juninho, Hugo Ayala, Luis Rodriguez; Guido Pizarro, Jesus Duenas (Francisco Meza, 89’); Javier Aquino, Lucas Zelarayan (Damian Alvarez, 76’), Ismael Sosa, Andre-Pierre Gignac
Xolos: Gibran Lajud; Carlos Vargas, Juan Carlos Valenzuela (Luis Chavez, 21’), Damian Perez, Hiram Munoz, Juan Carlos Nunez; Victor Malcorra, Guido Rodríguez, Paul Arriola; Aviles Hurtado (Matias Pisano, 79’), Milton Caraglio (Henry Martin, 70’)
Scoring: Tigres - None; Xolos - None
Disciplinary: Tigres - Juninho (Yellow - 22’), Alberto Acosta (Yellow - 61’), Andre-Pierre Gignac (Yellow - 66’); Xolos - Hiram Munoz (Yellow - 39’)