The Tijuana Xolos played their 14th game in the Liga MX Clausura 2018 on Friday as the border city side hosted Atlas at the Estadio Caliente.
The game was set to be a pretty simple game for Club Tijuana as Atlas was the 17th-place team in the Liga MX heading into this encounter. With only four games left, this was a must-win game for the Border City Dogs to keep their playoffs hopes alive. Diego Cocca’s men failed to win the game in what ended in a highly disappointing 2-2 draw at the Mictlan that might have just ended the Xoloitzcuintles’ season.
The Aztec Canines had a comfortable 2-0 lead just 12 minutes into the clash with goals by Miller Bolanos and Juan Martin Lucero. Lucero’s goal came from the penalty spot as Atlas’ defense was woeful in the opening minutes of the match. The Xolos clearly did not take advantage of this in the first half, with a few missed chances. The second half proved to be an entirely different game than what had been seen in the first 45 minutes on the synthetic turf.
Chilean forward Angelo Henriquez came on for Atlas in the second half and really went on to make an impact on the clash. Henriquez cut the Xolos’ lead in half in the 72nd minute, then played a role in the tying goal of the match as well. In the 77th minute, Henriquez smashed the sphere on the crossbar with a potent shot and Milton Caraglio headed the ball in on the rebound to make it a 2-2 scoreline. There was confusion on that second goal as the referee Fernando Hernandez took some time to finally signal the goal as a legitimate one. It was confusing as to why Hernandez took his time to signal the goal as it clearly crossed the line and it was clearly onside. The game ended 2-2 and the over 26 thousand fans did not seem to be happy with a lot of jeers and boos after the final whistle.
Xolos’ Lineup: Gibran Lajud, Omar Mendoza, Pablo Aguilar, Juan Carlos Valenzuela, Damian Perez, Damian Musto, Ignacio Rivero (83’ Alberto Garcia), Gustavo Bou, Miller Bolanos (73’ Rubio Rubin), Luis Angel Mendoza (58’ Ignacio Malcorra) Juan Martin Lucero
It was very peculiar that Diego Cocca opted to leave Ignacio Malcorra on the bench and also use Gustavo Bou as a winger. The formation seemed like a 4-3-3 at times, or like a 4-2-3-1 as well, and was effective for some moments in the game. Omar Mendoza had a relatively poor performance and Diego Cocca may want to consider giving Michael Orozco some minutes at right-back. Ignacio Malcorra is also a player that should always be in the starting XI and it is unclear as to why he did not start.
Man of The Match: Juan Martin Lucero
Juan Lucero had to be the man of the match for Club Tijuana as he scored a goal and also picked up an assist as well. The Argentine forward basically put the first goal on a platter for Miller Bolanos and perfectly executed a penalty for a goal of his own in the encounter. “El Gato” has been an off and on starter this season, but may have earned himself a starting spot in the Xolos’ starting XI next match with this performance.
Main Talking Point: Playoffs
This was a must-win game for Club Tijuana and now its playoff hopes may be in real jeopardy with just three games left this season. Those three games will be against Chivas and Toluca at the Estadio Caliente and against Leon away from home. All three of those games are against opponents that are much more complicated than 17th-place Atlas. The collapse of Club Tijuana in this game was very disappointing and may have even ended the Border City Dogs’ season. The Xolos are now in seventh place with 18 points, but have several teams breathing down their necks.