Sunday, Sept. 10, the Xolos played their eighth game in the Liga MX Apertura 2017.
The Aztec Canines traveled to Mexico City to face Pumas UNAM at the Estadio Olimpico Universitario in what was set to be a contested match. While Club Tijuana’s struggles were just present at the beginning of the season, Pumas UNAM has been struggling throughout this tournament.
The Xolos were one of the hottest teams in the Liga MX heading into the game, being undefeated in their last four games and winning their last three. Pumas UNAM had lost its last three games heading into this match, but it was still set to be a close duel as the Mexico City team had won two out of its three games at home this season.
Eduardo Coudet did keep the 5-3-2 formation for this game, but had a few alterations within the lineup. Gibran Lajud was in net with Matias Aguirregaray, Emmanuel Aguilera, Alejandro Donatti, Michael Orozco, and Damian Perez making up the defense. The midfield consisted of Joe Corona, Damian Musto, and Ignacio Malcorra, with the front two of Juan Manuel Iturbe and Gustavo Bou. Joe Corona, Michael Orozco, and Juan Manuel Iturbe replaced Luis Chavez, Juan Carlos Valenzuela, and Luis Angel Mendoza in the starting 11. Other than those changes, the lineup stayed consistent with what Eduardo Coudet has been using throughout the last three games.
The first clear scoring opportunity of the game fell in the 19th minute to Club Tijuana as Juan Manuel Iturbe failed to capitalize on a one-on-one against Pumas UNAM goalkeeper Alfredo Saldivar. Pumas UNAM looked like the slightly better team with a lot more scoring chances, but a lack of finishing ability. Joffre Guerron was left alone by the Xolos’ defense on several occasions inside the penalty area in plays that could have potentially ended in goals. The back line was a bit off during the first 45 minutes with the evident absence of the leadership that club captain Juan Carlos Valenzuela gives to the team. The first half ended scoreless, and it looked like it would remain that way, with neither team showing enough ambition or drive to score. The game was still not a spectacle by any means, but fortunately, some goals did come in the second half of the game.
Five minutes into the second half, Gustavo Bou hit a powerful first-time shot just outside the penalty area off a pass from the middle of the field that found the bottom left corner of Pumas’ net. The beautiful goal put the border city side up 1-0 early in the half and pretty much secured the three points from there. Eduardo Coudet’s side was not showing off an enticing style of play, but effectively held on to the slim lead throughout the encounter. The Aztec Canines closed spaces to perfection and frustrated their opponent, who only managed two shots on goal during the 90 minutes. In the final minutes of the match, the home team pushed everyone up the pitch, including the goalkeeper, Alfredo Saldivar, during a corner kick. The tactic failed as this resulted in a counter-attack for Los Xoloitzcuintles and Luis Angel Mendoza comfortably finished the opportunity in front of an empty net.
The game ended with the 2-0 result for the Xolos, making it four consecutive wins for the Prehistoric Dogs. Gustavo Bou also scored his fifth goal in the last five games, making him one of the most in-form strikers in all the Liga MX and showcasing how effective the signing of the Argentine striker was this offseason. Unfortunately, there were some disappointing performances in this game, most notably the work put in by Juan Manuel Iturbe and Joe Corona. Iturbe only had a pass accuracy of 60 percent throughout 63 minutes of play while Joe Corona only had 15 passes in 83 minutes of play.
With the absence of Luis Chavez, Corona had an opportunity to regain his starting role with an impressive performance, but failed to do so in this match. As mentioned before, Club Tijuana did not play an attractive style of play, but was extremely effective with only 38 percent possession during the encounter. The Xolos are now in third place with 13 points and will have a very challenging task to continue their winning streak next week as Club Tijuana will host second-place Club America at the Estadio Caliente this Friday, Sept. 15. If the team can play effectively, regardless of how attractive the soccer is on the pitch, it should keep on leading to favorable results under Eduardo Coudet.