Club Tijuana, Toluca grab upper hand in CONCACAF Champions League semifinal ties

Toluca captain Paulo da Silva nodded home after 71 minutes to give the Red Devils a 1-0 victory over LD Alajuelense on Tuesday night.

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LD Alajuelense 0 – Toluca 1

Toluca took a significant step toward a place in the final with a narrow triumph in Costa Rica. Alajuelense will rue its missed opportunities to grab a foothold in the tie after Jonathan McDonald hit the outside of the post with a curling effort before the interval and smashed a spot kick over the bar after 66 minutes. Toluca captain Paulo da Silva atoned for his inconsiderate lunge to give away the penalty by heading home the winner five minutes later to give the visitors a precious away goal. Da Silva’s intervention ended Alajuelense’s CCL-record 574-minute shutout streak and placed the Red Devils in firm control ahead of the second leg at Estadio Nemesio Diez on Tuesday.

Club Tijuana 1 – Cruz Azul 0

Cristian Pellerano converted a disputed penalty in the 79th minute to hand Tijuana a precious victory at Estadio Caliente. It looked like the Xolos might pay a considerable price for their inability to convert in front of goal until Dario Benedetto tumbled under scant contact just inside the penalty area. Referee Francisco Chacon – perhaps obscured by his angle on the play – immediately pointed to the spot. Pellerano drove his low penalty through Jesús Corona’s dive to his right to cobble together a narrow advantage. Cruz Azul departed in decent shape ahead of the second leg at Estadio Azul on Wednesday, but La Máquina will lament an opportunity squandered after Mauro Formica’s disallowed goal shortly before the interval and the questionable penalty award eventually condemned them to defeat.