Entering the match, Xolos were very much an unknown quality. Could they address the defensive woes and lack of discipline that plagued them last season with players that weren’t officially introduced in some cases until a couple of hours before kickoff? The answers to those questions were a resounding “yes” as they defeated last season’s superlíder Santos Laguna 2-1 at Estadio Caliente.
The game started off disjointed, with both teams struggling to really put it all together. In the fourth minute, Tijuana’s Camilo Sanvezzo was played in and knocked the ball past Jonathan Orozco, but the linesman correctly ruled the play offside. Tijuana looked much more disciplined and organized on defense than they did in the 2019 Apertura. Santos had some decent breaks forward but weren’t really able to threaten due to Xolos’ commitment on defense. Both teams also showed signs of some rust, with passes going nowhere in particular and runs not being made at times.
Xolos had a good chance at the 30 minute mark when Miller Bolaños was played in but his shot went high and was whistled offside as well. In the 35th minute, Fernando Gorriarán went to clear a ball and caught the underside of Mauro Lainez’ cleat. A penalty was awarded and confirmed by VAR, and Sanvezzo converted.
After the goal, Xolos looked a little more assertive in the run of play but couldn’t really put much together to take advantage of the momentum before the halftime whistle blew. Santos looked much more together after the half, and in the 50th minute were awarded a free kick. Matheus Dória stepped up and hit a rocket into the top corner to pull Santos level.
A minute later however Mauro Lainez would come down the field unchallenged and hit a shot that beat Jonathan Orozco to put Tijuana back on top.
In the 55th, Brian Lozano had a good opportunity but his shot whistled just wide of the net. Santos really started to find a groove around the 65th minute but Tijuana’s defense was rock solid and the visitors found precious few good chances at goal. The frustration started to mount with Santos, as the players began taking unnecessary fouls and arguing with officials.
In the 74th minute there was a bit of controversy as the referee stopped play to review a play from a couple minutes before that had been ruled offside. It was very close and a Xolos player had received a bit of a push in the box but the referee did not see enough to reverse the decision and award a penalty and play continued.
Santos kept pressing for an equalizer and got close in the 86th minute when Dória put a header on net that Gibran Lajud made a great save on, tipping it over the crossbar. But try as they might, last season’s superlíder couldn’t pull one out.
Tijuana will travel to Querétaro to face Los Gallos Blancos on Sunday, January 19 while Santos will return home to host León on the same day.
Club Tijuana: Gibran Lajud; Omar Mendoza, Jordan Silva, Leandro González Pirez, Aldo Cruz; Ignacio Rivero, Alfonso Sánchez; Miller Bolaños, César Falletti (Christian Rivero, 58’), Mauro Lainez (Miguel Barbieri, 83’); Camilo Sanvezzo (Erick Torres, 88’)
Santos Laguna: Jonathan Orozco; Josecarlos Van Rankin (Ayrton Preciado, 83’), Félix Torres, Matheus Dória, Gerardo Arteaga; Diego Valdés, Fernando Gorriarán, Ulíses Rivas (Octavio Rivero, 68’); Brian Lozano, Julio Furch, Eryc Castillo
Scoring: Club Tijuana - Camilo Sanvezzo (36’ - penalty), Mauro Lainez (51’); Santos Laguna - Matheus Dória (49’)
Disciplinary: Club Tijuana - None; Santos Laguna - Fernando Gorriarán (Yellow - 34’), Julio Furch (Yellow - 43’), Brian Lozano (Yellow - 69’), Diego Valdés (Yellow - 88’)