Tijuana and Toluca both took important steps forward in their quest for the CONCACAF Champions League crown on Tuesday night, edging out Cruz Azul and Costa Rica's Alajuelense, respectively, by 1-0 scorelines in the first legs of their semifinal series.
Xolos, starting Americans Edgar Castillo and Joe Corona and also featuring Herculez Gomez, triumphed at home on a late penalty kick to take a slight advantage heading into the second leg next Wednesday in Mexico City.
The home team had the better of possesion and more looks at goal, but were unable to break down Cruz Azul until the 78th minute when Tijuana striker Dario Benedetto was tripped up just inside the box by Julio César Dominguez. Cristián Pellerano (above, left) beat Cruz Azul 'keeper Jesús Corona from the spot to hand his team a lead it wouldn't relinquish.
In the early game of the evening, Toluca narrowly edged the defending Costa Rican champions in the two teams' clash at Alajuelense's Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto, winning on a 72nd-minute header from defender Paulo da Silva.
The Paraguayan veteran rose highest on a corner kick to head the ball down and in past Alajuelense goalkeeper Alfonso Quesada, giving the Diablos Rojos a vital away goal heading into the second leg between the two teams next Tuesday.
Jonathan McDonald missed a golden chance to give the Costa Ricans the lead in the 66th minute, skying his penalty kick after teammate Johan Ulloa was felled inside the area by da Silva.