Cristian Pellerano celebrates after a converting a penalty kick to give Club Tijuana a 1-0 win over visiting Cruz Azul in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League semifinal series on April 1, 2014. (Photo: Mexsport)
TIJUANA, Mexico – Cristian Pellerano scored a second-half penalty kick to lift Club Tijuana to a 1-0 win over visiting Cruz Azul in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League semifinal series on Tuesday at the Estadio Caliente.
The second leg will be played at the Estadio Azul in Mexico City on April 9. The winner takes on either Toluca or Alajuelense in the two-legged final.
Cruz Azul has now lost the opener in each of its four CCL semifinal appearances and has advanced to the final twice.
Dario Benedetto went down just inside the 18-yard box and Mexican referee Francisco Chacon immediately pointed to the spot. Pellerano fired low and hard to the right of diving goalkeeper Jesus Corona to give Xolos a 1-0 lead in the 79th minute.
The five-time CONCACAF champion had a chance to equalize in the first minute of stoppage time, but Pablo Barrera’s cross went out for a corner.
Two minutes later, Joao Rojas bounced a shot into goalkeeper Cirilo Saucedo. Then, seconds afterwards, Saucedo dived to his left to stop Alejandro Castro’s dipping attempt from distance.
In the 13th minute, Benedetto had the first quality chance for either team. The Argentine forward’s shot from 19-yards out, however, was deflected away.
Tijuana’s Fernando Arce had a pair of first-half chances. He blazed well over the crossbar in the 18th minute and forced a save from Corona four minutes before the interval.
Cruz Azul was nearly victimized by a defensive miscue in the waning seconds of the first half, only to see Fidel Martinez not connect with Benedetto before the ball was cleared.
Ten minutes after the break, Pellerano’s effort from 26 yards went directly into Corona.
Quickly on the other end, Mauro Formica chipped over the bar from the top of the 18-yard box after receiving a cross from Mariano Pavone.
Arce’s chance with a set piece from 24-yards-out in the 67th minute sailed high.
Club Tijuana is a perfect 4-0-0 in CCL home games.