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Balanta’s mistake proves costly as Querétaro’s playoff hopes fade

The Colombian committed a crucial turnover which Gallos never truly recovered from.

Queretaro v Club Tijuana - Torneo Apertura 2021 Liga MX Photo by Cesar Gomez/Jam Media/Getty Images

In what was truly not a battle for the ages between two of the most limited teams in Liga MX, Querétaro (16th) hosted Tijuana (18th) in what probably meant Gallos’ last hope of getting back into the playoff race (since a whopping 12 out of 18 teams qualify). Yesterday night, Querétaro sat at 11 points, just 3 back from Pachuca, Chivas, and Mazatlán (11th, 12th, and 13th respectively), meaning if they had defeated the league’s bottom-dwellers, they would’ve placed themselves right in the middle of the hunt for that final spot. Of course, they still had to wait to see how the rest of the clubs did in their Round 13 matchups over the weekend.

The first half progressed as you would’ve expected, with neither team actually creating any real danger, but with the home side clearly dominating possession and opportunities created. It seemed only a matter of time before the league’s worst defense succumbed to yet another mistake and gave Gallos the lead it deserved at the half. However, upon receiving an open pass in his own third of the pitch with only keeper Aguerre behind him in the 44th minute, Kevin Balanta directed the ball straight to a pressuring Mauro Manotas, who took control of the ball and did what he knows best; lobbed the ball over an outstretched Aguerre, sending the ball to the back of the net. A true gift to a club who had barely managed a pinch of danger over the course of the first half. Talk about a mental blow heading to the locker room.

Despite that, HC Leo Ramos managed to prevent his team from derailing, as the second half belonged entirely to Gallos, with approach after approach on goal ending in bitter disappointment, just as it has all season long, having only managed to score 6 times before yesterday. Pablo Barrera and Kevin Ramírez sent countless crosses into the box, and both Jonathan Dos Santos and Nico Sosa were unable to connect effectively on any of them. That much was true until the 75th minute, when Ramírez himself received a ball in midfield, sent a beautiful through pass to Dos Santos, returning the favor to the Uruguayan who calmly poked the ball into the net, bringing his club even.

Gallos would have at least three more chances, including a near penalty call which upon a VAR review, proved to be just outside the box. Querétaro’s strikers have simply proven unable to score, no matter how many crosses are sent inside the box. It’s their most needy position looking forward to next season. With that, the match ended in a 1-1 draw, bringing Gallos to 12 points compared to Tijuana’s 8.

Xolos have already kissed this season goodbye, and while it’s true there are still four matches to go in the season, Gallos’ remaining schedule includes Rayados and Santos at home, as well as Mazatlán and Atlas on the road. It’s such a tough ending to the season, it wouldn’t be surprising if they lost all four. More than likely, Querétaro’s last playoff hopes slipped away last night as they passed up the opportunity to defeat not only this season’s worst club, but the worst club over the past three years, as Tijuana are dead last in the relegation battle by 5 points as well.