Club Tijuana completed their meteoric rise in Mexican soccer tonight winning the 2012 Liga MX Apertura title, defeating Toluca 2-0 on the night and 4-1 on aggregate.
It's the first ever top division title for Xolos who are in just their fifth year of existence. Club Tijuana was founded in 2007 and earned promotion to the top division for the first time in 2011. Toluca entered the match down 2-1 on aggregate after the first match on Thursday at the Estadio Caliente. A win would have given the Red Devils their eleventh league title, tying them with Chivas Guadalajara for the all-time lead, but it was not to be.
It was an entertaining first half of action despite the lack of goals. Between some hard tackles, some close calls on goal and Chivas Guadalajara announcing that Johan Cruyff would be gone from the club after 30 days, it was a wild 45 minutes of action.
After Toluca's Carlos Esquivel was shown an early yellow card in the 8th minute, Xolos put a long free kick on frame, that hit off the outside of the post, completely to the surprise of Toluca's keeper Alfredo Talavera. It wasn't going in but it certainly startled Talavera reminded Toluca that Xolos would not just be sitting back and absorbing pressure.
The match referee was all business as well early. The quick yellow card against Esquivel was one sign, warning the Xolos keeper Cirilo Saucedo about time wasting in the 11th minute sealed the deal.
There was a potentially lucky moment for Xolos in the 26th minute. Javier Gandolfi and Sinah collided at midfield in what looked like a 50/50 challenge at full speed. The replay showed Gandolfi cleated the Toluca striker on the top of the foot as the two collided, before hitting knee to knee. Both men went down but were able to continue. Gandolfi escaped punishment for his poor tackle that probably should have been a red card had any of the officials seen it.
The first 20 minutes or so went just how Tijuana wanted with possession being fairly balanced and Toluca struggling to break down the Xolos formation. As the half went on, Toluca began to break through and were able to come close (not dangerous, but close) several times. The best two chances were headers by Novaretti Diego, one that missed from the left side off a corner as the ball went across the face of the goal and wide. The second Diego sent wide to the left after getting open in the center of the Xolos box.
By the halftime whistle though, they'd failed to pull even on aggregate.
Xolos came out firing in the second half and came within inches of taking complete control of the final in the 48th minute. US Men's National Team player Edgar Castillo unleashed a wicked shot from just outside the box that looked destined for the back of the net as it curled towards the top corner. At the last moment, Talavera came flying across his goal and pushed the ball away for a corner.
Toluca started to crank up the pressure after that close call. The Red Devils really should have pulled even in the 56th minute after a cross in to the box from left to right was headed down by Lucas Silva at the far post to Luis Tejada who was wide open in front of the Xolos goal. Tejada was off balance a bit though and his header went just wide of the post.
The Red Devils continued to apply pressure as the minutes ticked away but Tijuana executed their park the bus/counter attack tactic to near perfection.
Then a well timed counter by Xolos changed everything.
It all started when Diego took out Fidel Martinez as he raced after the ball towards the ball. Diego earned a yellow card and Xolos got a set piece in a dangerous position. Fernando Arce's free kick hammered off the post, right to Richard Ruiz who raced past everyone in to the open space in the box. Ruiz punced on the rebound and beat Talavara with a low shot to give Tijuana a 1-0 lead, 3-1 on aggregate. Toluca screamed for an offside call, but the replay showed the officials made the right call and he was definitely onside.
Barely a minute later, Xolos struck again as Martinez's long pass hit Duvier Riascos in stride who raced past the last defender, danced around Talavera, and put the ball in the empty net, making it 2-0 in the match and 4-1 on aggregate.
It was a tremendous season for Tijuana and an expertly played two-leg final by Xolos and their Argentinian manager Antonio Mohamed.