Luis Robles carried the New York Red Bulls to victory over Club Tijuana in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.
The captain faced pressure all night from a crafty Xolos side that seemed like they were moments away from an equalizer throughout the match. Robles held firm, making 13 saves on his way to an important clean sheet and victory.
On the other side of the field, Bradley Wright-Phillips provided a brace with goals on either side of halftime giving the Red Bulls a 2-0 victory.
Bradley Wright-Phillips helped the Red Bulls start the game the right way, scoring in the 9th minute. Marc Rzatkowski kept possession for the Red Bulls following a corner kick, finding Daniel Royer streaking down the left wing. Royer’s cross deflected back to Wright-Phillips, and the striker slammed it home.
The goal left Xolos flustered for a few minutes, but they settled in and found the game, causing a few scares to the Red Bull’s backline. Luis Rolbes was called upon throughout the first half to maintain the Red Bull’s one goal lead, showing tremendous athleticism and reflexes.
Tim Parker making his first start for the Red Bulls acquitted himself well, showing the poise and command of the position the Red Bulls had praised upon acquiring him last week.
Marc Rzatkowski was forced to leave the match just before halftime, suffering an apparent hamstring injury. Red Bull fans will certainly worry about an extended injury spell for the first year midfielder after a strong performance against C.D. Olimpia in the Round of 16.
In the second half, Xolos looked to have equalized in the 64th minute, but the goal was incorrectly ruled offside, a tough blow for the home side having dominated the half.
Moments later, Wright-Phillips caught Gilbran Lajud out of position, extending the Red Bull’s lead and giving the visitors a huge advantage ahead of the second leg. Florian Valot provided the assist in his first match for the Red Bulls after having starred on the New York Red Bulls II in USL.
Along with losing Rzatkowski, the Red Bulls will be without Sean Davis for the second leg, as the central midfielder picked up a yellow card, his second of the tournament.
Xolos have their work cut out for them in the second leg next Tuesday. They will need to score three goals to advance thanks to the Red Bulls two away goals.
Man of the Match
Bradley Wright-Phillips may have provided the goals, but Luis Robles kept a shaky Red Bull defense from embarrassing themselves. Robles made 13 saves on his way to a clean sheet.
Moment of the Match
The Xolos goal called back really flipped the script on the home side. They took control of the match after the Red Bulls opened the scoring in the first half, and looked good to overturn the result. The goal reversal stole some of Xolos mojo and they had trouble regaining their composure.
Match to Forget
Gilbran Lajud faced three shots on target and surrendered two goals. No matter how good the Xolos play in attack, their stout defense has been the center piece of their success in Liga MX this year. Whether it was tired legs or bad luck, Xolos dug themselves quite a hole in the first leg and Lajud shoulders a large portion of the blame.