Pumas gave their fans some hope as they came out 1-0 winners in their match against Xolos de Tijuana. It was a very hard fought game with very little excitement, but the hosts left it late and got a good result after a week of results that left them out of the Copa MX final and practically our of the Liguilla. For Tijuana, it was another terrible road performance following their victory over América at home. While the win might have been too much a prize for Pumas, the difference between the teams wasn’t much and Xolos didn’t really deserve a better result.
Pumas came into this game with not much hope to make the Liguilla and with the main idea of giving a last hurrah to their fans. Xolos, on the other hand, was right in the middle of the Liguilla zone at sixth but with a recent away streak of terrible play. Both sides proved their struggles in a terrible first half. Outside of a couple of Pumas balls cleared in the final third by Xolos defenders and a great run from Miller Bolaños that a Pumas defender stopped with a last minute slide, none of the teams came close to opening the score. A chorus of boos went through the stadium at the halftime whistle and this time it was meant for both teams.
The second half started with a better offensive work, which to be honest wasn’t hard. Ariel Nahuelpan came close to opening the score for Xolos when he was wide open but just failed to get his head to a cross.
Pumas started becoming the better team as Xolos started sitting back, maybe because of the tough weather. But it was Naheulpan again who came close to scoring against his old team but his header went wide.
The game started getting more violent and Pumas still had the most of the possession, but Xolos had the more dangerous chances on the counter. It was with one that Xolos had their best chance all game when Miller Bolaños went 1 v. 1 against Pumas’ keeper Alfredo Saldivar and then passed the ball to a wide open Fabian Castillo, who should have scored but sent his shot wide of the post.
The shot seemed to have woken up Pumas. First, they came close with a header that was blocked by a Xolos defender. Then a Pablo Barrera cross fell to Luis Quintana, whose shot went off the top post.
A couple of minutes later it was a controversy when Juan Manuel Iturbe confronted a Xolos player and then coach Bruno Marioni seemed to shove the ball to the player for the throw in. This made Xolos players angry, especially Bolaños, and a fight happened in the sidelines which ended up with Marioni getting ejected.
Pumas didn’t let up and after a corner kick that had some controversy (Xolos players protested that Pumas players didn’t kick the ball out to help a Xolos defender who was injured), Carlos Gonzalez headed the ball for the game’s only goal. Xolos had young goalkeeper Carlos Higuera making his debut because they are running into trouble with the U-20 minutes rule qouta, and it was Higuera who came out badly in the corner kick, allowing Gonzalez to open the score.
Xolos didn’t have another clear opportunity and Pumas held on for the win as Xolos player protested to the ref.
While the win does give some hope to Pumas, they are too far behind to think that it will end up with anything besides a little joy to the fans. Still, it was a good victory at home against a team that was right in it. With all that said, a lot of questions will go towards the situation of their coach Bruno Marioni. After getting suspended in the Copa MX for getting into a fight post game with a fan, he will now get a Liga MX suspension following the ejection in today’s game.
Meanwhile, Tijuana will benefit from not only going back home to Tijuana but of an easier calendar that will have them facing two struggling teams in Lobos BUAP and Morelia. It seems they might have enough energy to make it to the Liguilla but shouldn’t get past the Quarterfinal if they end up getting there.
For Pumas, they will have their big test next week when they face their other city rival in Cruz Azul, in a game where their fans would love more than anything to get another positive result in Mexico City.