The visiting universitarios put the pressure on from the start, with André-Pierre Gignac forcing a good save out of Agustín Marchesín in the third minute. Marchesín was then called into action against Eduardo Vargas, with the keeper making a fingertip save to keep Tigres off the board in the 12th minute.
The Águilas were busy in the back throughout the half, with good interventions from Edson Álvarez, Bruno Valdez, and Carlos Vargas as well as Marchesín, who continued to shine in goal.
América began to create chances of their own as well, although the final touch was lacking and they did little to trouble Nahuel Guzmán.
The Águilas started the second half looking to go on the attack, but just two minutes into the half they conceded a controversial penalty. Bruno Valdez was called for a handball when he made a sliding block in the box; although it appeared that the ball struck him in the face before rebounding into his arm, referee Óscar Macías Romo pointed to the spot.
Juninho took the penalty kick and sent Marchesín the wrong way to give Tigres the 0-1 lead in the 48th minute.
América immediately began looking for a response and substitute Renato Ibarra added a new dimension to the Águilas’ attack, but the breakthrough wouldn’t come for the hosts.
As América pressed, Tigres looked to take advantage of the spaces they left at the back to add to their lead. Enner Valencia played in Vargas, but the timely intervention of Guido Rodríguez kept the universitarios from adding a second.
The Águilas came closest to an equalizer in the 83rd minute, when Ibarra sent a cross into the box and Mateus Uribe tried his luck with a bicycle kick, with the ball going just wide of the post. Despite their efforts, Tigres held on to the lead as América was left still looking for their first goal of the playoffs.
With the 0-1 win, Tigres will advance to the final with a win, a draw, or a 0-1 loss in Saturday’s second leg, while América must score at least twice in a win in order to move on.
América: Agustín Marchesín, Carlos Vargas, Edson Álvarez, Bruno Valdez (Alejandro Díaz 78′), Miguel Ángel Samudio, Paul Aguilar, Guido Rodríguez, Mateus Uribe, William da Silva (Diego Lainez 70′), Carlos Darwin Quintero (Renato Ibarra 60′), Oribe Peralta.
Tigres: Nahuel Guzmán, Juninho (Francisco Meza 53′), Hugo Ayala, Jorge Torres Nilo, Luis Rodríguez, Rafael Carioca, Jesús Dueñas, Javier Aquino, Eduardo Vargas (Lucas Zelarayán 81′), André-Pierre Gignac, Enner Valencia (Jürgen Damm 86′).