Sports

Questionable foul helps sink Xolos in Monterrey

Tijuana loses second game of the season

MONTERREY – Joaquin del Olmo rubbed his right hand across his face as he walked the sideline staring at the ground.

The Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles head coach expressed his frustration Saturday night. He had just witnessed what could have been his team's first points in the Primera División evaporate in a 4-2 loss at Rayados in Monterrey.

Many would blame a suspect penalty kick call for the Xolos' collapse in their second match in the First Division. They would say Luis Perez's goal via a penalty kick in the 50th minute changed the game.

Pérez converted the penalty kick after Tijuana midfielder Fernando Arce was whistled for a foul against Sergio Santana in the 18-yard box.

Replays showed Santana began falling to the turf seconds before Arce placed his left hand on Santana's right arm. Referee José Callado, who was officiating in his first Primera División match, hesitated to call the foul. He looked at one of his line judges, then decided to blow the whistle.

Tijuana players couldn't believe it. Neither could del Olmo.

Regardless of the call, the Xolos lost a 2-0 lead. Pérez converted the PK to tie the match 2-2. Santana had cut the Xolos lead to 2-1 in the 41st minute after he easily tapped in a right-footed shot past Xolos goalkeeper Cirilo Saucedo after defender Javier Gandolfi left Santana wide open.

That defensive mistake wasn't the first. The Xolos' altered back line was caught off guard in the 72nd minute when Walter Ayovi gave the Rayados a 3-2 lead with his right-footed shot into the back of the net. The onslaught was on. César Delgado would score the final goal a minute later.

"Tijuana had attitude in the first half," Delgado said during a television interview. "But we were able to turn things around. Our attitude

is strong and it allowed things to become easier on the field. We didn't get desperate and we finished when it mattered."

The Xolos had lost their second-straight match despite being the better team in the first half. Tijuana appeared on its way to making history for the city. But instead of gaining three points in the standings with its first win in Mexico's top circuit, it failed to keep up with one of Mexico's best teams. It appeared the controversial penalty kick deflated Tijuana.

It was almost a carbon copy of the Xolos' debut last week at home against Morelia, a 2-1 loss. A late penalty called against the Xolos resulted in the game-winning goal via a penalty kick for Morelia.

The Xolos also allowed a goal via a defensive mistake in the back.

As a result del Olmo made changes in his starting line-up against Monterrey. He opted to start Juan Santiago instead of Joshua Abrego at center defender. Starters Fernando Ruiz, Alejandro Molina, and Javier Gandolfi are regulars. It appears del Olmo will still need to look at possible changes in the back.

The midfield seemed to have improved some against Monterrey. Del Olmo moved Joe Corona, who scored via a header in the 29th minute, to right wing from the left. Arce moved to the left wing from center midfield.

Egidio Arevalo made his debut with the Xolos. He is coming off a Copa América championship with the Uruguayan national team.

Tijuana did get an offensive boost with the addition of Colombian striker Dayro Moreno, who gave the Xolos a 1-0 lead 26 minutes into the match. He sent a left-footed volley into the left corner of the net past Monterrey goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco.

Tijuana appeared to be in control of the match after Moreno and Corona's goals. But a 2-0 lead wasn't safe. The Xolos are perhaps learning quickly that miscues in the defense can prove costly in their new division.

The Xolos' next game is Saturday, Aug. 6, when they visit Santos de Torreón, another tough competitor in Mexico's premier league.

ivan.orozco@sandiegored.com

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