Xolos needed just one opportunity against Pumas last Friday in order to hold onto first place in the league table.
During the 22nd minute of the match in the Estadio Caliente, Tijuana defender Juan Carlos Valenzuela looked up towards striker Milton Caraglio and provided a perfectly timed lobbed pass to the Argentine. Caraglio, ready to capitalize on the pass, leaped in the air and headed the ball forward towards Gabriel Hauche’s run into Pumas’ 18-yard-box.
With just the goalkeeper to beat, Hauche had no problem rocketing in the shot that later ensured a 1-0 victory for the home side. At first look, the narrow win doesn’t appear to be the most dominating victory of the season. After scoring 13 goals in the first six games of the competition, three points gained off just one goal may not seem like the most exciting result.
However, it was difficult to find very much wrong with Tijuana that night. After my complaints last week about possible issues for certain members of the starting XI, nearly every player stepped up during the recent win against Pumas. Xolos’ defense appeared composed under the leadership of Juan Carlos Valenzuela, Guido Rodriguez once again took charge of the midfield and even Caraglio appeared to have a boost in energy up-top.
Pumas, with little to offer in the first 45 minutes, weren’t able to push back the confident Xolos starting XI until after halftime. Even after the Mexico City club gained some momentum, 39-year-old Tijuana goalkeeper Federico Vilar was able to collect a few saves that held Pumas scoreless. Believe it or not, with the narrow victory in hand, Miguel “Piojo” Herrera and his men have once again gained another victory in the 2016 Apertura. With no losses at home, and four points gained in their three away matches, Xolos have amassed a total of sixteen points and a current spot in first place.
Herrera was well aware of needing a victory before a busy schedule next month and now has a three point cushion over second place. During the last six seasons, an average of 25 points gained during the tournament has been enough to guarantee a spot in the playoffs. With a total of 10 games left in the regular season for Tijuana, the squad is just nine points away from reaching that goal. It’s foolish to make predictions about anything regarding the Liga MX, but here is a very early one for Xolos fans: Liga MX playoffs will be returning to Tijuana this season.
Results from Week 7 of the 2016 Apertura
Queretaro 1-2 Necaxa
Necaxa, the current favorites to be relegated next summer, have moved one step closer to potential safety after gaining the team’s first victory of the competition. Luis Felipe Gallegos provided the game-winning goal for the club during the 87th minute.
Atlas 1-1 Cruz Azul
Los Rojinegros nearly walked away with a win at home on Saturday but allowed a last second penalty that secured the draw against Cruz Azul. The point gained for Atlas was enough to keep the team at eighth place in the standings.
Tigres 1-1 Veracruz
Despite the fact that Tigres have now collected their fourth draw of the Apertura, many fans will still be happy with the club’s current undefeated run that has carried Los Auriazules to third place. Veracruz, on the other hand, is still struggling with just one victory gained.
Pachuca 1-1 Monterrey
Credit must be given to the Pachuca side that had to play with 10 players on the pitch for most of the draw. After a red was shown to Hirving Lozano in the first half, Los Tuzos found a way to hold off Los Rayados to just a 1-1 result.
America 0-3 Chivas
The Clasico Nacional finished as a memorable one for Chivas. While America was hoping to gain a win at home during the team’s 100th anniversary celebration, Chivas’ Isaac Brizuela stole headlines with his two goals and an assist that helped Los Rojiblancos gain a victory that many fans won’t forget.
Toluca 2-2 Morelia
Another match that was defined by a last second goal. Thanks to an opportunity from Fernando Uribe in the 90th minute, Toluca was able to salvage at least one point from Sunday’s draw against Morelia.
Chiapas 0-3 Puebla
Although Chiapas finished the game with more possession, Puebla emerged with more effective opportunities that solidified the convincing away win. With two goals on Sunday afternoon, Puebla Matias Alustiza was arguably the man of the match.
Santos Laguna 1-0 Leon
It took seven weeks and a managerial change, but Santos Laguna have finally gained their first victory of the Apertura. After Leon went down to nine men late in the game, Los Guerreros’ Jonathan Rodriguez scored a last-minute goal during stoppage time that gave the home side three points.