CONCACAF: Toronto defeat Cruz Azul; Matchday 1 Review (+video)
Sixteen teams holding dreams of continental glory saw the group phase of the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League kick off this week. Arguably the biggest result was Toronto FC’s 2-1 victory over Cruz Azul whose dreams of a third successive Champions League final have been dented a little by the Canadian champions. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reviews this and all the other seven games on Matchday 1 of this season’s competition.
It has been a pretty good couple of years for Toronto FC. As well as winning the Canadian Championship in the last two years they have been admitted into the American Major League Soccer (MLS) Championship as an expansion team and now are competing in their maiden CONCACAF Champions League campaign after disposing of Honduran side Club Deportivo Motagua in the qualifying round. Their Group A match against Cruz Azul was the highlight of the round especially as the Canadians kept up their unbeaten home record this season. They had a dream start thanks to Martin Šarić’s close-range header and it got better just a minute before the interval as Mista’s shot from the edge of the box was too hot for keeper Yosgart Gutiérrez. The Mexicans did have chances in the second half but were only able to pull one back in the dying minutes of the game when a free-kick from Christian Giménez gave Cruz Azul some hope but it proved to be too little, too late. Toronto FC start off with a win whilst the other Group A clash saw Americans Real Salt Lake leave it late to secure victory at home to Panama’s Clausura champions Arabe Unido. After the visitors had taken an early lead through Armando Cooper, Real had their Costa Rican striker Álvaro Saborío to thank for scoring stoppage time goals in each half to grind out a 2-1 victory for the MLS champions.
WATCH TORONTO FC v CRUZ AZUL HIGHLIGHTS HERE:
Group B saw the two favourites to win the group gain three points in their opening matches. Mexicans Santos Laguna got the better of Trinidad & Tobago representatives Joe Public FC winning 5-2 away from home with José Maria Cárdenas scoring four times. Emmanuel Ekpo’s 14th minute strike proved just enough for MLS side Columbus Crew in their home tie against Guatemalan Clausura champions CSD Municipal. This makes the imminent clash between Santos Laguna and Columbus Crew, which takes place on Matchday 2, one of the ties of the round with both teams determined to keep their 100% record intact.
WATCH JOE PUBLIC FC v SANTOS LAGUNA HIGHLIGHTS HERE:
Mexicans CF Monterrey made a good start to their first ever CONCACAF Champions League campaign defeating Costa Rican giants Deportivo Saprissa by a goal to nil in Group C. Saprissa, who won the old CONCACAF Champions Cup three times before the competition was re-named, were hopeful of getting something away from home against a team who haven’t had a lot of success at international level. However there would be just the one goal separating the two teams at the end of the game thanks to Monterrey’s Aldo de Nigris’ close-range tap-in after 25 minutes to give the defending Mexican Apertura champions the three points. In the other group match Club Deportivo Marathón and Seattle Sounders shared three first-half goals between them in a game which saw a win for Marathón by two goals to one. The Sounders took the lead in the 17th minute through Roger Lavesque but the lead only lasted ten minutes as Orvin Paz restored parity for the home team. Marathón sealed the win with a first-half stoppage time penalty through Nicolas Cardozo to start their Champions League campaign with a win.
WATCH CF MONTERREY v SAPRISSA HIGHLIGHTS HERE:
CFU Caribbean champions Puerto Rico Islanders are ever-presents in the three-year history of the CONCACAF Champions League and opened their campaign against Olimpia of Honduras. Despite having home advantage the Islanders were eventually made to work hard for the point they gained out of this match. Nicholas Addlery had given the Puerto Ricans a first half lead when his beautiful backheel at the near post put the Islanders a goal up at the break. Olimpia, though, took the game to their hosts in the second half and eventually got their reward when Mauricio Copete received the ball in the Islanders’ penalty area and nutmegged keeper Bill Gaudette. In the second game of Group D El Salvador’s FAS toughed it out at home to Mexicans Toluca and secured a point in a goalless stalemate. Therefore the group table sees all four teams on one point each with Olimpia and the PR Islanders occupying top spot by virtue of goals scored.
WATCH PUERTO RICO ISLANDERS v OLIMPIA HIGHLIGHTS HERE: