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Concacaf Champions League

Rayados emerge from hard-fought first leg with slight advantage, but Tigres still have more than puncher's chance

12:12 PM MYT 24/04/2019
Aquino Rodriguez CCL final
A Nicolas Sanchez header just before halftime gave Monterrey a leg up ahead of next week's decider at the Estadio BBVA Bancomer

Too often, it seems like those comparing a sporting event to a heavyweight title fight have never seen a boxing match of any sort.

Yet, if not two sluggers going at it in the ring, what should we compare the first leg of the Concacaf Champions League final to? An arching header from a corner kick just before the break was the difference, with Monterrey taking the 1-0 advantage into next week's second leg thanks to Nicolas Sanchez.

The sides traded punches. Tigres would attack, only for Rayados to keep the final pass from getting through. Then they'd go forward, surging from the back as is their specialty. A Tigres midfielder would chop down the attacker or sometimes pick the ball right off his feet. The whole process would start again.

Maybe the analogy falls short there, too. Because while Tuesday's first leg certainly felt like a title fight, it had some of that classic scrap that was in a fighter like Julio Cesar Chavez. There were big punches thrown but it also was remarkable just how much each team was able to withstand. It should be seen as no slam to call the game reminiscent of a welterweight fight.

It was a minor miracle no one actually threw a punch - outside the stadium nor on the field - as referee John Pitti kept the whistle to his lips and tried to impose some sort of order over the proceedings (the Panamanian did well, showing how silly those trying to start controversy when the news came out that neither leg would be overseen by a Mexican referee were being). 

Tigres were frustrated, not only to be held quiet at home but not to have more success on the wings. Miguel Layun and Jesus Gallardo had help all match, with Rodolfo Pizarro and Dorlan Pablon coming back to try and keep the quick wide players from getting in one-on-one situations - or from finding Andre-Pierre Gignac in the box once the Frenchman came on with 30 minutes left to play. They also had to protect Stefan Medina, the converted fullback who had to fill in at center back with Cesar Montes suspended and Jose Maria Basanta injured.

Tigres weren't at full strength, either. Gignac will look to go the full 90 minutes in the second leg. Carlos Salcedo would love to slot back into the center-back spot where he's best, not play a half as the left back and another half as the right back to try and cover for the injured Luis "Chaka" Rodriguez. 

With the away goals rule not in effect for the title game, there is still plenty of chance for Tigres to get back into the series and win its first-ever international title. And the ghosts of the Liga MX final between the two clubs in the 2017 Apertura, which Tigres won on Rayados' home field, will be howling Wednesday. You only had to look at Tigres goalkeeper Nahuel Guzman urging the crowd at El Volcan to sing louder after the final whistle to see that Tuca Ferretti's side still will have belief.

So it all hangs in the balance going into the second leg. We knew it would. There's not enough between the city's two teams for either to have created any separation before the decider at the Estadio BBVA Bancomer.

You don't have to be an expert to know that each team still stands more than just a puncher's chance.