TIJUANA – Periodically throughout the Liga MX Apertura final between Club Tijuana and Toluca, the Estadio Caliente PA system played the sound effect of a dog barking. The Xolos showed they also have some bite to back up that bark in a 2-1 first-leg win.
Tijuana coach Antonio Mohamed allowed for no feeling-out time that often marks two-legged ties, sending out his side with three forwards and dropping American fullback Greg Garza from the 18. The move paid off with a heavy domination of the ball in the early going, with American schemer Joe Corona pulling the strings and Edgar Castillo bombing down the left flank.
For Toluca, captain Sinha provided his usual sexy touches and passing flourish.
The Xolos pressure paid off in the 24th minute. Fidel Martinez, sporting a Neymar haircut, slipped between the central defenders and latched onto a chipped ball from midfield. He took a touch to steady himself and prodded past Alfredo Talavera in the Toluca goal.
The 10-time title winner responded immediately. Two minutes later, Luca Silva exploited the space behind Castillo and pushed the ball across goal. Edgar Benitez tapped it in at the far post with Cirilo Saucedo stranded.
Five minutes before the half, Tijuana, playing its first final, reclaimed the lead. Fernando Arce zipped a free kick into the box, where Corona headed it along. Likely offside, Pablo Aguilar tipped it in unmarked at the far post.
Tijuana held on throughout a much more cagey second half, with both Sinha and Corona making way early, to claim the win. This particular dog fight still has plenty of time to go, but the Xolos have their chompers firmly in Toluca's rump.
Follow ZAC LEE RIGG on Twitter or shoot him an email