The universitarios controlled possession from the opening whistle while the Xolos looked to defend and build out of the back. But just as Tijuana was getting somewhat settled on the field, Juan Carlos Valenzuela suffered an injury and had to be subbed out of the game.
Tigres pushed to take advantage of Tijuana’s forced adjustments, and Jesús Dueñas began to push further up the field. He nearly opened the scoring when he met a cross from Ismael Sosa, but Gibrán Lajud made a good save, sending the ball out for a corner kick.
Then, in the 42nd minute, Tigres took the lead. Lucas Zelarayán brought down a pass from Sosa with a smooth backheel maneuver, turned, and volleyed the ball past Lajud to make it 1-0.
Before Tijuana could react to falling behind, Tigres scored a second. A play that started with Nahuel Guzmán playing the ball out of the back culminated in Javier Aquino making it 2-0 in the 45th minute. Sosa combined with Aquino, who took advantage of an inopportune slip by his defender to beat Lajud.
In the second half, the Xolos began to press forward with more intent as they looked to reduce the deficit and snag a valuable away goal. Avilés Hurtado and Milton Caraglio created a few opportunities, but they couldn’t find the breakthrough.
Meanwhile, Tigres were looking for more goals to put the series completely out of reach. They significantly out-shot Tijuana, in terms of both shots and shots on goal, and André-Pierre Gignac had a few good chances, but the score remained 2-0.
With the 2-0 win, Tigres will advance to the final with a win or draw in Sunday’s second leg, while Tijuana needs to win. A 2-0 win would advance Xolos on the higher-seed tiebreaker, but if Tigres score, Tijuana will need to win by three.
Tigres: Nahuel Guzmán, Hugo Ayala, Alberto Acosta (Luis Advíncula 87′), Juninho, Luis Rodríguez, Lucas Zelarayán (Damián Álvarez 77′), Ismael Sosa, Javier Aquino, Guido Pizarro, Jesús Dueñas (Francisco Meza 90′), André-Pierre Gignac.
Tijuana: Manuel Gibrán Lajud, Juan Carlos Núñez, Hiram Muñoz, Carlos Vargas, Juan Carlos Valenzuela (Luis Chávez 21′), Damián Pérez, Guido Rodríguez, Paul Arriola, Víctor Malcorra, Milton Caraglio (Henry Martín 71′), Avilés Hurtado (Matías Pisano 80′).