It took a little bit of luck and a lot of intestinal fortitude but Tijuana went to Monterrey and pulled out an improbable victory, beating Rayados 2-1 and moving on to the Liguilla semifinal round 3-2 on aggregate.
Things got off to a rocky start for Tijuana when Pablo Aguilar and goalkeeper Gibran Lajud had a bit of a miscommunication on who was going to play a ball. Lajud had the presence of mind to kick the ball out of the box, however it only got as far as a Rayados attacker, whose shot went well high and wide.
Xolos fortunes would change though. In the fourth minute, Miller Bolaños drove across the top of the box and hit a shot that deflected off of defender Leonel Vangioni. The shot took a high, lazy arc and almost floated past Rayados goalkeeper Hugo González to give Tijuana the lead on just their second goal scored away from Estadio Caliente in 2018.
Tijuana then did what Tijuana does - set men behind the ball and looked to stifle any momentum that Monterrey sought to build. In the 18th minute, Rayados drove deep and former Xolo Avilés Hurtado got the ball in the eighteen. He was immediately faced with five defenders, and his outlet pass was easily intercepted.
In the 24th minute, Gustavo “Pantera” Bou went down the right line and challenged left back José Maria Basanta for a ball. His sliding tackle dispossessed the Argentine left back and Bou drove down into the box before feathering a perfect pass across to Juan Lucero, who easily tapped it in to give Tijuana a two goal lead.
In the 35th minute Dorlan Pabón ripped a shot that whistled just wide of Lajud’s goal, but that would be as close as the hosts got in the first half. Tijuana’s defense left little space for a Rayados side that at times looked completely out of ideas.
That changed in the second half, as Monterrey came out ready to play. Just one minute in, Dorlan Pabón was sprung on a pass and hit a hard shot into the roof of the net. The Xolos players appealed for an offside call but the referee was having none of it.
On the ensuing kickoff, Pabón bolted down the right side of the pitch and was played in on a dangerous pass into the box, but he was well defended and the chance came to nothing. The tone of the game had changed dramatically from the first half as Monterrey, perhaps realizing the gravity of their situation, went full-bore at Tijuana.
In the 55th minute there was a bit of controversy as Carlos Sánchez got on the end of a pass from Pabón in the box. There was contact from the defender and Sánchez went down, but the referee’s whistle remained silent.
In the 65th minute, Arturo González hit a rocket from about 25 yards out that Lajud had to make a fantastic diving save on. A minute later, Jonathan Urretaviscaya and Gibran Lajud had words, and a huge scrum broke out resulting in Lajud, Bolaños, and José Maria Basanta all being shown yellow cards once cooler heads prevailed.
It wasn’t all Monterrey though. In the 72nd minute, Luis “Quick” Mendoza hit a shot that went right-to-left across the front of Hugo González’ net, just missing the corner. But the onus was on Rayados to score and thus they threw numbers forward, trying desperately to score.
As the clock struck 90’, Ignacio Rivero was shown his second yellow card and sent off. Down a man and with five minutes of added time, it was set for Monterrey to pull one out in front of their home fans, however Tijuana held fast and was able to pull off the seemingly impossible upset to move on to the semifinal round.
Monterrey: Hugo González; Leonel Vangioni, Nicolás Sánchez, Stefan Medina, José Maria Basanta; Alfonso González, Jesús Molina, Carlos Sánchez; Jonathan Urretaviscaya (Josue Domínguez, 74’), Dorlan Pabón, Avilés Hurtado
Club Tijuana: Gibran Lajud; Damián Peréz, Juan Carlos Valenzuela, Pablo Aguilar, Omar Mendoza; Damián Musto, Ignacio Rivero; Luis Mendoza (Michael Orozco, 90+2’), Miller Bolaños (Rubio Rubin, 76’), Gustavo Bou (Luis Chávez, 61’); Juan Lucero
Scoring: Monterrey - Dorlan Pabón (46’); Club Tijuana - Miller Bolaños (4’), Juan Lucero (22’)
Disciplinary: Monterrey - Jesús Molina (Yellow - 38’), José Maria Basanta (Yellow - 68’), Avilés Hurtado (Yellow - 74’); Club Tijuana - Pablo Aguilar (Yellow - 37’), Ignacio Rivero (Yellow - 67‘, Second Yellow 90+1’), Damián Musto (Yellow - 39’), Gibran Lajud (Yellow - 68’), Miller Bolaños (Yellow - 68’)