Is Tijuana “goalkeeper’s goal” Liga MX’s own Stefan Frei moment?
No amount of history will ever compete with the importance of Sounders Swiss stopper Stefan Frei’s miraculous save in Toronto. Clawing the ball out from practically behind his shoulder when it seemed goal bound, he carried his limping comrades to a penalty shoot out where glory and an MLS Cup awaited.
Rightly, though unusually, that moment is best remembered from the final even more so than the winning penalty.
However, if not quite – though close – a match in terms of breathtaking agility, Tijuana Xolos keeper Gibran Lajud matched him in terms of importance in a Mexican Cup playoff Quarter Final last weekend.
The tie was delicately placed at 1-1. Monarcas Morelia had arrived in Tijuana with a 1-0 lead but had seen that canceled out in the first half. The aggregate scores were level at 1-1 and Morelia were pressing for a winner in front of an increasingly nervous home support.
With ten minutes left, they had a perfect chance to take the lead again.
Colombian substitute Diego Valdes was in a good position with a free kick from inside the Xolos half. Xolos were unable to clear it and Rodrigo Millar unleashed a great shot on the turn. It seemed goalbound for the Monarcas and fatal for Tijuanan hopes, until Xolos keeper Lajud appeared from nowhere to claw it round the goal for a corner. Diving to his left, his top hand, the right one, arches over his head and reaches out to get enough purchase to push the ball around.
Valdes subsequent corner was poor and easily cleared. The ball is about to reach Victor Malcorra when the clip ends.
In the second video below, the clip picks up the action when that defensive header has reached Malcorra who has moved a few yards up the left wing inside his own half. From there, he looked up and delivered a world class cross field diagonal pass to the galloping Juan Martín Lucero.
Lucero had only been on the pitch for seven minutes but he controlled the pass and then flipped the ball inside for his onrushing colleague Avilés Hurtado. Hurtado, another Colombian, finished convincingly.
His goal put Xolos in the lead for the first time in the series and eventually guaranteed them a semi-final tie with Tigres. The first leg is on Thursday in Monterrey and coach Miguel Herrera has already announced his team:
Xolos XI: Lajud; Pérez, Vargas, Valenzuela, Muñoz, Núñez; Guido Rodriguez, Corona; Malcorra, Caraglio, Hurtado
Hiram Muñoz did not start the second leg in Tijuana. He replaces Henry Martin, scorer of the opening goal, who is relegated to the bench.
With the return leg coming on Sunday, Xolos or Tigres need only wait five days more to see who will meet Chivas or Toluca in the final.
Whatever happens, they will owe the better part of their adventure to Gibran Lajud.