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Match recap: Santos Laguna 2, Club Tijuana 1

Unlikely heroics power Santos in a thrilling 2-1 win over Xolos.

Félix Torres of Santos celebrates after scoring his team´s second goal during the 11th round match between Santos Laguna and Tijuana as part of Torneo Apertura 2023 Liga MX at Corona Stadium on October 4, 2023 in Torreon, Mexico. Photo by Manuel Guadarrama/Getty Images

Heroics are often found in the most unlikely of places. For Santos, tonight’s heroes turned out to be a center back and a goalkeeper making his professional debut as Félix Torres grabbed a late goal and Héctor Holguín saved a penalty and then made a series of fantastic saves to power Santos to a 2-1 win over Xolos.

The big talking points ahead of the match was Holguín getting the start over Gibrán Lajud against Lajud’s former team as well as Hugo Rodríguez starting over Matheus Dória. Both Lajud and Dória had poor performances in Santos’ loss against Necaxa a week and a half ago, although Dória and Ismael Govea were ruled out of the match due to injuries.

The opening minutes were fairly even, with Santos perhaps having a slight advantage with regards to possession and intent. Xolos meanwhile looked content to settle in and defend, allowing Santos to get perhaps a little too comfortable before springing a counterattack. They did just that in the eighth minute of play, but a wonderful cross from the left wing was sent well into the stands by Carlos Valenzuela. The play remained mostly in the midfield until the 16th minute when Alan Cervantes took a shot from distance that missed. A minute later though Juan Brunetta made a fantastic run through the teeth of the Xolos defense, drawing all of the attention before slotting the ball over to Harold Preciado for perhaps the easiest of his eight goals on the season.

The lead didn’t last long however. In the 25th minute Christian Rivera passed to Daniel Vázquez, who hit a shot directly at Holguín. While Holguín made the stop, Lucas Rodríguez was left all alone to clean up the rebound to draw Xolos level.

The goal seemed to wake Tijuana up a bit, with both teams then taking turns with possession and driving into the other’s end. Nothing much came from these excursions however, In the 37th minute there was a scary moment when Harold Preciado and Christian Rivero went up for a ball and clashed heads. Both players went down on the pitch and were attended to by the medical staff. After a couple of minutes, both went off and were eventually allowed back onto the pitch. As the match went into first half stoppage, Preciado had a wonderful chance on a shot across the front of goal that just missed tucking inside of the far post. Despite Santos having been the better team, the poor play on the goal had the sides level at the break.

The early part of the second half was largely a continuation of the first, with Santos keeping the majority of possession and neither team being able to do much with it when they had it. Santos had a good opportunity in the 54th minute off of a free kick that was headed by Pedro Aquino, but the shot missed and was ruled offside for good measure. Juan Brunetta had a rip at goal in the 70th minute that was deflected out just wide of the net.

In the 75th minute Brunetta put a great pass forward for Aldo López, but his shot was well saved by Toño Rodríguez. Three minutes later however Félix Torres put his head onto a free kick from deep, knocking it into the top corner of the net to give the hosts the lead.

After a short stoppage for a VAR review, play continued. Xolos wet back on the front foot and in the 85th minute a header off of a corner kick was cleared off of the line by Aldo López. The play underwent an extensive VAR review, and it showed that before the ball was cleared off of the line the ball hit Torres’ arm and Xolos was awarded a penalty. Lucas Rodríguez stepped up and took the shot but Holguín stoned him, keeping Santos on top.

Three minutes into stoppage Holguín made another fantastic save, this time on a header from short range. Not to be outdone, in the sixth minute of stoppage Javier Correa got a break on goal but Toño Rodríguez stood tall and made a fantastic save to keep his team in the match, but time was not on Xolos’ side and the whistle blew shortly after.

Santos will host León on Sunday, October 8 while Tijuana will return home to host Atlético San Luis on Sunday, October 8.

Santos Laguna: Héctor Holguín; Omar Campos (Roni Prieto, 90+2’), Félix Torres, Hugo Rodríguez, Raúl López; Alan Cervantes (Aldo López, 46’), Pedro Aquino; Emerson Rodríguez (Santiago Muñoz, 65’, Juan Brunetta, Duván Vergara (Diego Medina, 65’); Harold Preciado (Javier Correa, 90+2’)

Club Tijuana: Toño Rodríguez; Diego Barbosa, Kevin Balanta, Nicolás Díaz, Francisco Contreras (Rafael Fernández, 77’); Christian Rivera, Fernando Madrigal (Iván Tona, 77’); Eduardo Armenta (Domingo Blanco, 46’), Lucas Rodríguez, Silvio Martínez (Jesús Vega, 67’); Daniel Vázquez

Scoring: Santos Laguna - Harold Preciado (17’), Félix Torres (78’); Club Tijuana - Lucas Rodríguez (25’)

Disciplinary: Santos Laguna - Pedro Aquino (Yellow - 20’), Duván Vergara (45+1’), Juan Brunetta (Yellow - 73’), Héctor Holguín (Yellow - 90+5’); Club Tijuana - Christian Rivera (Yellow - 78’)