Toluca clinches playoff spot; Querétaro ends winless streak

Maxi Araujo (left) terrorized terrorized his former mates Friday night, helping Toluca to a 2-1 win at Puebla in a Matchday 14 contest. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)
Maxi Araujo (left) terrorized terrorized his former mates Friday night, helping Toluca to a 2-1 win at Puebla in a Matchday 14 contest. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images) /
Toluca Gallos M14 Fri
José Zúñiga (left) opened the scoring for Querétaro, helping the Gallos Blancos end a 52-game road winless streak by defeating Tijuana 2-1 in a Friday night Liga MX match. Toluca defeated Puebla 2-1 in Friday’s other game to clinch a playoff spot. (Photo by Francisco Vega/Getty Images) /

Toluca holds on to defeat Puebla

Toluca clinched a playoff spot with a tougher-than-it-should-have-been 2-1 win at Puebla on Friday night.

Edgar López got the visitors on the scoreboard in minute 8 as the Diablos Rojos pressed the attack from the opening kickoff. Toluca doubled its lead in minute 15 when goalie Tiago Volpi converted a penalty kick that was declared by VAR (ref Daniel Quintero initially showed a yellow card to Maxi Araujo for feigning a foul but video replay clearly showed Puebla keeper Antony Silva had clipped both feet).

The result leaves the Diablos Rojos in second place with 28 points, and one step closer to getting a first-round playoff bye.

Toluca dominated the first hour of the match, controlling possession and attacking relentlessly. Then the State of Mexico team settled back into a prevent defense, a decision that almost proved disastrous.

Toluca’s man-marking down the stretch was horrid and the team’s passing touch suddenly disappeared, the tentative passing producing short possessions that allowed Puebla to press forward.

After Camoteros coach Benjamín Arce inserted striker Guillermo Martínez in minute 78 a few minutes after Facundo Waller had cut the deficit in half, things got even hairier for the Diablos Rojos. Puebla exploited the poor defense and nearly found the equalizer as “La Franja” rained crosses into the box that kept finding Martínez’s head.

If not for Volpi’s heroics, Toluca might have had to split the points. The Brazilian netminder came up with 8 saves – including a spectacular, lunging effort in minute 90+5.

The faltering second half will surely bother Ignacio Ambriz after “Los Choriceros” nearly coughed up a 3-0 lead last week, conceding a second to Tigres in minute 90 then going all wobbly-legged yet somehow holding on through 7 minutes of stoppage time.

Gallos are roadkill no more

Querétaro traveled to the border and came home with a 2-1 win over Tijuana Friday night, a momentous victory for a couple reasons.

The outcome boosts the Gallos Blancos into 9th place and a potential wildcard spot even as they sit last in the Relegation Standings. Of greater significance – this was Querétaro’s first win away from home in more than three years!

“The White Roosters” last won a road game back on Feb. 16, 2020, when they outscored Necaxa 3-2 in Aguascalientes. The Friday night triumph ends an embarrassing 52-game winless streak, just two games short of the Liga MX record held by the UAT Correcaminos (set in the early 1990s).

Querétaro had 3 road goals all season before finding the net twice Friday night against at Tijuana, highlighting Miguel Herrera’s troubled tenure.

“El Piojo” took over ahead of Matchday 7 after the Xolos got off to a 1-4-1 start under Ricardo Valiño and interim coach Cirilo Saucedo. Tijuana is now a dreadful 1-2-5 under the former El Tri boss

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The loss keeps the Xolos in 16th place (12 points) depending on what UNAM (11 points) does Sunday against visiting Atlético de San Luis.