The Tijuana Xolos hosted Chivas de Guadalajara at the Estadio Caliente for their 15th game in the Liga MX Clausura 2018 on Friday.
The atmosphere at the Mictlan was as expected with an abundance of Chivas fans mixed with the local support.
The Xoloitzcuintles had not won in four consecutive Liga MX games and Chivas had just eliminated the New York Red Bulls in the Concacaf Champions League. Despite this, the Border City Dogs were the favorites to win the game with the home-field advantage, and with the fact that Los Rojiblancos had just played in New York on Tuesday. The odds turned even more in the Aztec Canines’ favor once the lineups were announced as Chivas had an alternate squad with six players under 22 years old in it.
Club Tijuana took advantage of this young squad in this encounter as the referee whistled a penalty in the Xolos’ favor just six minutes into the game.
The penalty was controversial as a handball was called on Chivas’ captain Jair Pereira after a deflection on his leg. Miller Bolanos executed the penalty perfectly for his fourth goal of the season as he gave the Xoloitzcuintles a 1-0 lead. The Border City Dogs received another controversial penalty in their favor before the end of the first half in the 40th minute of the match. Juan Martin Lucero was taken down in the penalty area, but the contact that was made seemed soft for the Argentine’s reaction to the foul.
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The Xolos had a comfortable 2-0 lead at halftime, but it really was not convincing, especially considering that the border city team had blown a 2-0 lead against Atlas last week. The Chivas’ youngsters proved to be unconfident and unfit for the task at hand on the synthetic turf of the Estadio Caliente. Diego Cocca maintained his starting 11 for most of the second half as well before making his first substitution in the 73rd minute. Rubio Rubin came on for Luis Angel Mendoza and the American forward made it a 3-0 game in the 84th minute. It was Rubin’s first-ever Liga MX goal and it was quite a nice one as he rounded Chivas’ keeper Miguel Jimenez, then finished the ball perfectly in the back of the net.
A young, depleted Chivas’ team walked off the pitch with no hope of making the Liga MX playoffs. The Xolos, on the other hand, rejuvenated their hopes of reaching La Liguilla, now with 21 points and a goal differential of five after the game. Club Tijuana still has two very tough games left this season as it will face Leon away from home at the Nou Camp next week and then round off the tournament at the Estadio Caliente against Toluca.
Xolos’ Starting Lineup: Gibran Lajud, Omar Mendoza, Pablo Aguilar, Juan Carlos Valenzuela, Damian Perez, Damian Musto, Ignacio Rivero, Gustavo Bou (84’ Ignacio Malcorra), Miller Bolanos (90’ Luis Chavez), Luis Angel Mendoza (73’ Rubio Rubin), Juan Martin Lucero
Diego Cocca’s starting XI was the exact one that was used against Atlas last week. The squad was more experienced and much more talented than the one Matias Almeyda put out and it did play to its strengths in this match. The defense was rigid and tough to break down, like it had been this season, but the attack was very fluid, exciting, and creative.
Man of The Match: Miller Bolanos
Miller Bolanos had one of his best games in a Xolos’ jersey against Chivas this Friday night as he finished the clash with a goal and an assist. The Ecuadorian forward inclusively had two key passes and 29 accurate passes in the match and really seemed to be the focal point of the attack going forward. Bolanos’ speed, skill, and flair was far too much for the young Chivas players to handle as he demonstrated the potential he possesses in this encounter.
Main Talking Point: Goal Differential
After this result, there is still just a four-point gap between Club Tijuana, currently in seventh place, and Pumas UNAM in 12th place. The Liga MX has proven to be very competitive this season and a spot in the playoffs may just come down to goal differential. The three points from the match were important, but the actual 3-0 result may have been even more crucial. The Xolos now have a goal differential of five, which is better than any team from eighth to 12th place except for Necaxa, who also has a goal differential of five. Club Tijuana took advantage of all the factors in its favor and came away with the crucial result against a team that was also playing for its fate this season.