EDINBURG — In the 71st minute, the Club Tijuana Xolos finally scored the goal they craved from the beginning.
Ignacio Rivera hammered a shot from about 19 yards out that went across the goalie and into the top-left corner of the net.
The Xolos, of Liga MX, beat the FC Motagua Azules Aguilas, based in Tegucigalpa, Honduras and representing Honduras’ Liga Nacional, 1-0 in the first leg of their round-of-16 fixture in the CONCACAF Scotiabank Champions League tournament.
The second leg will be played at 9 p.m. on Feb. 27 in Tijuana.
If the teams are tied after both legs, the first tiebreaker is most away goals. Since Wednesday’s game was technically a home game for Motagua, Tijuana was elated to secure a tally.
In the 53 minute, the stadium temporarily lost power and play was stopped.
The game was also delayed by lightning, with CONCACAF protocol dictating that the teams have to wait 30 minutes after any lightning strike within 10 kilometers before resuming play. In all, the delays lasted 52 minutes.
With the Xolos ahead and just two minutes remaining in regulation, Motagua showed some frustration. After losing possession of the ball, Motagua’s Marco Tulio Vega committed a hard foul near midfield, drawing a yellow card. The foul only allowed the Xolos to chew more clock.
The first half started slow, but as halftime drew nearer, both clubs showed a bit more desperation.
Tijuana’s Damian Musto had a strong chance after 37 minutes, when he was all alone in Motagua’s penalty box. He didn’t have an angle for a shot, so he sent a probing pass across the mouth of the goal. None of the nearby Xolos got a touch on the ball, and the cross swung all the way out to the flank, where a Motagua defender cleared the danger.
Just a few minutes later, Motagua’s Walter Martinez received a pass just outside the box on the left side. He squared up his shot and went for the top-right corner, but his angle was just off, and the shot sailed out of bounds.
In the second half, Tijuana started to press, looking to get an away goal that could make all the difference in the second leg. The Xolos pulled some of their defensive players forward, leaving only three defenders back to watch for a break.
The rain started at the 30-minute mark, and it drenched the players and the pitch, making traction a rare commodity.
Motagua had plenty to overcome before the match even started. Political turmoil in Honduras has caused the nation many issues over the past few months, with protests all over the country. The unrest caused CONCACAF to rule that teams from Honduras could play their home games elsewhere. Once the RGV FC Toros organization heard of the opportunity, H-E-B Park entered a bid to host.
Motagua’s team is also haunted by a long history. The Aguilas Azules have never won a match against a Liga MX team. Honduras has been a comfortable environment for Motagua, but the team has not found the same success in international competition.
The Aguilas last made the Champions League in 2015, flaming out in the group stage. The same thing happened the previous time Motagua qualified, in 2011. At home, the Aguilas have been in six domestic finals over the last eight tournaments, coming away with three titles. In all, they have won the Liga Nacional 15 times and finished second 12 more times.