CONCACAF: Champions League groups reach halfway point
The CONCACAF Champions League has reached the midway point in the group stages and it is not at all surprising to see Mexican clubs doing well. All of the country’s representatives are on top of their respective groups and it looks increasingly likely that the quarter-finals will contain a quartet of Mexican teams for the third consecutive year since the inception of the current tournament format. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reviews the latest action from North and Central America’s top club competition.
Last season’s losing finalists Cruz Azul continue to top Group A after they strolled to a 6-0 away win in Panama against bottom club Arabe Unido. Javier Orozco scored a hat-trick in the first twenty-seven minutes of the match to put the match beyond doubt early on and the Mexicans added three more goals for good measure in the final quarter of the game with Emanuel Villa bagging a brace and Maxi Bianchucci making it six of the best with the final goal four minutes from time. Cruz Azul’s nearest challengers for top spot are Real Salt Lake, the American champions getting the better of their cross-border MLS rivals Toronto FC by four goals to one. Canadian champions Toronto FC took the lead after just eight minutes through Maicon Santos but it only took until the 21st minute for the scores to be tied after Kyle Beckerman headed home from a corner. The Major League champs then took control of the match with Jamison Olave scoring with another header five minutes before the break to give Real Salt Lake a 2-1 half-time lead. An Álvaro Saborío penalty and a Paulo Araujo close range effort ten minutes from time sealed the deal for the Americans who have six points along with Cruz Azul in the standings.
Santos Laguna still lead Group B despite losing a two goal lead and, as a result, two points in their 2-2 draw away at Municipal in Guatemala. Rodrigo Ruiz gave the Mexicans the lead from the penalty spot after eight minutes and the lead was extended just five minutes later when Oribe Peralta scored to aid Santos Laguna’s dream start. Mario Rodríguez halved the deficit midway through the first half which allowed Municipal to begin to make a game of it in the second half and the Guatemalans’ perseverance was rewarded three minutes before the end of the game when Carlos Castillo scored with a penalty kick to tie the game. Americans Columbus Crew made light work of Trinidad & Tobago representatives Joe Public FC with Léandre Griffit, Jason Garey and Steven Lenhart all on the score sheet in their 3-0 win to close the gap between the Crew and Santos Laguna to just a point at the top of the table.
WATCH MUNICIPAL v SANTOS LAGUNA HIGHLIGHTS HERE:
Monterrey CF are the only team in the competition who have a 100% record in the group stage after they made easy work of Hondurans Marathón winning 2-0. The Mexicans took the lead after 23 minutes through Aldo de Nigris and the lead was doubled in the second half thanks to a wonderful free-kick from William Paredes. Seattle Sounders were still waiting to get off the mark going into their Matchday 3 fixture and they were to face more disappointment as they came up against a determined Deportivo Saprissa side in Costa Rica. Goals from David Guzman and Allen Alemán gave Saprissa a 2-0 victory to put them three points behind Monterrey and leave the Sounders rooted to the bottom of the group.
WATCH MONTERREY v MARATHON HIGHLIGHTS HERE:
A top of the table clash featured in Group D as Mexicans Toluca FC came up against CFU Caribbean champions Puerto Rico Islanders and it was the former who would obtain all three points from the match after a convincing 3-0 home win. Osvaldo González opened the scoring after 18 minutes but the Mexicans were made to work before putting the game beyond the Islanders with strikes in the last fifteen minutes of the game from Juan Cuevas (pen) and Emmanuel Cerda putting some daylight between the two clubs at the top of the table. The final game of the week was played on Thursday night in Honduras as Olimpia went head-to-head with neighbouring El Salvadorians FAS with both teams hoping to join the Islanders on four points in the standings. Roger Rojas proved to be the deciding factor as he scored a goal in both halves to give Olimpia their first win of the current campaign and they will hope to build on this when they face FAS in the return fixture in a fortnight’s time.