The Tijuana Xolos played their eighth game in the Liga MX Clausura 2018 this Saturday against Pumas UNAM at the Estadio Caliente.
The game was not one that Xolos were expected to win because of the team’s recent poor form and Pumas’ success this season. The Border City Dogs defied all odds and achieved a dominant 4-1 win against the Mexico City team at the Mictlan. Fans were scrambling to get tickets around the Estadio Caliente for the much-anticipated duel as 27,333 filled the Mictlan for the first sellout of the year. The atmosphere in and around the stadium was vivid as the Pumas’ fans made their presence felt before, during and after the match.
Nicolas Castillo opened the score for the away side before the first minute of the match with a towering header off a free kick by Matias Alustiza. The picture seemed grim for the Xolos but Mateus Goncalves wore the cape and became the hero of the night for the home team with two goals before the end of the first half. The Brazilian’s first goal came just nine minutes into the encounter as he used his speed to take advantage of an error by Alejandro Arribas and put the ball past Alfredo Saldivar. His second of the night came off a shot inside of the area off a perfect pass by Juan Martin Lucero. Lucero had not started the game but came off to replace Gustavo Bou in the 29th minute of the match. Bou picked up a back injury and was taken off the field and is expected to miss some playing time.
However, Lucero had the best game this season with that assist, then a goal of his own in the second half. The Argentine striker made it a 3-1 game from the penalty spot in the 51st minute as the game was all but over for Pumas UNAM. Los Capitalinos lost control after that goal as midfielder David Cabrera picked up a red card in the 57th minute. There were a couple of altercations throughout the encounter between Xolos and Pumas as eight yellow cards were handed out by referee Fernando Guerrero. Diego Cocca kept order as Alejandro Guido helped with that when he came on in the 69th minute of the match for Ignacio Rivero. The game remained intense in the final minutes of it as Ignacio Malcorra scored off a perfect pass by Mateus Goncalves in stoppage time. Goncalves provoked Pumas’ goalkeeper Alfredo Saldivar as there was another altercation between the two teams towards the end of the match. The Pumas players were obviously bothered and had lost control as several complained to Fernando Guerrero after the match. The win was huge for the Xoloitzcuintles especially after coming off two tough losses against Pachuca and Queretaro.
Lineup: Gibran Lajud, Omar Mendoza, Pablo Aguilar, Juan Carlos Valenzuela, Damian Perez, Damian Musto, Mateus Goncalves, Ignacio Rivero (69’ Alejandro Guido), Ignacio Malcorra, Miller Bolanos (77’ Luis Angel Mendoza), Gustavo Bou (29’ Juan Martin Lucero)
Diego Cocca made some modifications to his starting XI and that worked wonders for the border city team. The team appeared to be playing a 4-1-3-2 formation but also looked like a 4-2-4 because of how high up Malcorra and Goncalves pushed up the pitch. The Xolos have a very tough game against Club America coming up and it would not be surprising for Cocca to repeat this formation and lineup.
Man Of The Match: Mateus Goncalves
The Brazilian winger started in his first Liga MX game this season and was the hero of the night for Club Tijuana. His speed particularly played a role in generating a spark and creating a solid rhythm for the Xolos going forward. The Xoloitzcuintles scored more goals on Saturday night than they had all season and Goncalves played a huge role in the Aztec Canines’ dominant victory with two goals and an assist.
Main Talking Point: Bou’s Injury
This has not been an ideal season for the Xolos despite this significant win. The Prehistoric Dogs had only scored three goals in the Liga MX before this encounter and may now be without Gustavo Bou for some time. The Argentine striker is still arguably the best player on the team and can be that difference maker but is expected to miss some time due to a muscle strain in his back. There is still no official report but the Xolos will have a hard time if Bou misses some significant time.
Alejandro Guido spoke to EVT after the Xolos big win tonight and gave his opinion on the game. Guido said, “ I thought we did well attacking, we’ve been training on it, the players did well on one versus one situations, especially Mateus (Goncalves) and gave us the game changer”. The San Diego Native also gave details on what his manager Diego Cocca asked from him off the bench. Guido said, “He asked for solidarity, he told me to be our man up, win balls, be conservative in that area and then play out and go forward”.