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Tijuana with ‘galactic’ performance against Los Angeles

Jaimen Ayovi scored in the first minute of play against the LA Galaxy.
Jaimen Ayovi scored in the first minute of play against the LA Galaxy.

The game should have had a warning sign attached to it as it was not apt for those “suffering from heart conditions.” From the get-go the scoring began in this six goal thriller that pitted Southern California (Los Angeles, USA) versus Baja California (Tijuana, Mexico) in a growing cross-border rivalry that took place at the Caliente Stadium.

This was the return leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals. The Galaxy arrived with a 1-0 advantage from the home leg last week at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. Xolos would make their home turf respected as they took the game 4-2 to advance to the regional tournament’s semifinals.

Don’t let the 4-2 score fool you. On aggregate the final score was 4-3. Another goal from the Galaxy would have advanced the MLS side on the away goals rule. But the Aztec dogs took the first bite in the first minute of play. Ecuadorian Jaimen Ayovi surprised goalkeeper Jaime Penedo putting the ball past the Panamanian to level the aggregate score with almost 90 minutes still to play. Ayovi found a loose ball in the small area and executed for the 1-0.

Nine minutes into the game and Ayovi would break the net once more to double the home-side’s lead and begin their steps to reach the continent’s semifinal games. Ayovi pulled Penedo off his line and worked the ball to move around the keeper and fired into an open net for the 2-0. It looked like Xolos would have an easy night and cruise into the next round.

That feeling was confirmed in the 26th minute when Argentine Dario Benedetto made a Galaxy semifinal look impossible. Benedetto used his speed to get past the defenders then crossed the ball past Penedo. Tijuana took a commanding lead with a 3-1 aggregate score. The game went to break with Xolos leading 3-0.

Two minutes into the second half Irishman Robbie Keane knocked the wind out of the fans at the Caliente putting the ball in the net for the 3-1. Suddenly the game was 3-2 on aggregate. One more goal for the Galaxy would make the global a 3-3 which would give Los Angeles the pass with the away goals rule.

The Baja Californians did not let the Galaxy goal slow them down and continued to manage the game keeping control of the pitch. Benedetto would get the opportunity to assist in the 82nd minute when he connected with Richard Ruiz. Both players easily overcame the Galaxy defense that looked slow at best during the game. The Tijuana all-time goal scorer put the ball past Penedo to give his side a bit of a breather with the 4-1 score.

With five minutes left in regulation Keane would put the crowd back on edge after putting a Landon Donovan assist in the net for the 4-2. The Galaxy increased their attack, they knew that one more goal would put them in the semifinals for the second year in a row. But it was not meant to be and the Mexican squad would reach their first semifinals in the competition. Tijuana awaits the winner of the Cruz Azul-Sporting Kansas City match.

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