The first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals kicked off yesterday, with one of the matches showcasing Club Tijuana against Cruz Azul. Both clubs created many chances, but their goalkeepers were able to keep the goals out of the net — when the shots were on goal at least.
It was the Xolos of Tijuana who were able to come out on top after a controversial call by the referee. Luckily, Cruz Azul will have a chance to try to fix his mistake by beating the Xolos on aggregate next week.
The first real shot of the match came from Cruz Azul’s Mauro Formica in the 42nd minute. It was disallowed because of a handball, which was a close call, but Formica did use his upper arm to bring down the ball. It was a beautiful goal, but a fair call. Sadly, Cruz Azul were not able to score another shot in the match.
The only real goal of the match came from a penalty kick. Dario Benedetto stumbled inside the box, and the referee made a terrible call. He wasn’t even bumped by a Cruz Azul player, but the referee was quick to make the decision. Cristian Pellerano took the penalty kick and converted it, much to the appeasement of the Xolos fans in the stadium. It was a shot I was hoping he’d miss only in fairness to Cruz Azul.
I’m not saying the Xolos didn’t deserve to win, but I don’t think they earned the win. It was a gift from the referee. I wouldn’t go as far as calling favoritism or match-fixing, but the referee did make a huge mistake. Benedetto was awarded a penalty for stumbling in the box. It was a harsh blow to Cruz Azul.