TIJUANA, Mexico – Edgar Castillo, Joe Corona and Club Tijuana will go to Brazil next week with everything to play still to play for in their historic Copa Libertadores campaign, although it’ll be an uphill battle.
Xolos were 2-0 up against Ronaldinho’s Atlético Mineiro in the quarterfinal first leg in the Estadio Caliente on Thursday, but a late equalizer for the Brazilian side snatched the victory from Club Tijuana’s clutches to make the final score 2-2.
Castillo completed the full game at left back, bombing forward with regularity and causing Mineiro myriad problems.
The 26-year-old almost opened the scoring in the 27th when he played a one-two and burst into the penalty area, stretching to loft the ball over ‘keeper Victor, only to see the effort drop wide of the right hand post.
After the break, Castillo continued to force Mineiro onto the back foot on the left flank and almost set up a goal in the 51st when he dribbled into the box and laid the ball off.
In the 64th, he had another effort from long range, but it sailed a couple of yards wide, with the ‘keeper having it covered.
Surprisingly, Corona was left on the bench by outgoing coach Antonio Mohamed and was introduced in the 72nd minute to play on the left hand side of the central midfield trio. Corona was tidy in his passing, but had little chance to make an impact in the time he was on the field.
Tijuana opened the scoring through Duvier Riascos in the 32nd and doubled the lead in the 53rd via Fidel Martínez.
After that, Mineiro – considered a strong favorite to win the whole competition – crept back into the game, with Diego Tardelli eventually getting a vital away goal in the 63rd and Luan completing the comeback in second-half injury time.
The return leg is May 30 in the Estádio Independência in Belo Horizonte.
Whoever goes through between Club Tijuana and Atlético Mineiro will face the winner of Boca Juniors against Newell’s Old Boys. The first leg of that game finished 0-0 in La Bombonera on Thursday.
Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.