CONCACAF: Three teams seal QF berths; Matchday 5 Review (+video)
The line-up for the quarter-final stages of the CONCACAF Champions League is one step closer to being completed after three teams sealed their qualification on Matchday 5. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reviews the latest developments.
Both of the qualifiers from Group A were decided on Tuesday night and it was no surprise to see last season’s finalists Cruz Azul and MLS champions Real Salt Lake clinch their berths for the next round. Cruz Azul had no problems in sealing their place with a comfortable 2-0 home victory over Panama’s Arabe Unido. Emmanuel Villa scored the opening goal of the game after just sixty seconds and many fans would have been forgiven for thinking that there would be a cricket score by the end of the game. However there was just one more goal in the remaining time when Adrián Cortés converted a penalty kick a couple of minutes after the half-time break. Real Salt Lake faced a difficult match on the road to Canadian champions Toronto FC and it was the hosts who took the lead when Jacob Peterson caught the Real defence out on 20 minutes. Real Salt Lake equalized midway through the first half when Javier Morales curled home a beautiful free-kick. The top two teams both have ten points after five matches, five points ahead of Toronto FC whilst Arabe Unido languish in fourth place with three points. Matchday 6 sees the top two fight it out in Salt Lake City for the group leadership while Toronto and Arabe Unido hope to avoid the wooden spoon.
WATCH CRUZ AZUL v ARABE UNIDO HIGHLIGHTS HERE:
Group B remains open with three teams still in with a chance of taking the top two places. A win for Columbus Crew on Wednesday night would’ve signalled the end of CSD Municipal’s challenge in the tournament but the Guatemalans had other ideas in their home encounter against the Major League Soccer team. Guillermo Ramírez gave Municipal a two goal lead in the first half only for Columbus’ Andy Iro to halve the gap in first half stoppage time. With no further goals Columbus Crew blew their chance to secure their place in the quarter-finals but they should be able to do so on Matchday 6 where they face off against the group’s bottom club Joe Public FC. The team from Trinidad & Tobago lost heavily to Mexicans Santos Laguna for whom five different players got on the score sheet in their 5-1 win. The win helped Santos Laguna regain top spot in the group with ten points, one more than Columbus Crew and two ahead of Municipal. On Matchday 6 Santos Laguna face-off against Municipal in what will be one of the ties of the round.
Monterrey CF may have lost their 100% record in Group C on Tuesday night but that didn’t stop them from ensuring their qualification to the quarter-finals after a tough 2-2 draw away at Costa Rican champions Deportivo Saprissa. The Mexicans led 2-1 at the break but José Mena’s 66th minute equalizer ensured a share of the spoils for Saprissa who are battling it out with Club Deportivo Marathón for a top two spot. Marathón conceded second place in the group standings to Saprissa on Wednesday night having lost to a Seattle Sounders side who had lost all of their previous four group matches in this year’s competition. Michael Fucito was on target for the Sounders with a goal in each half as the Seattle club restored some lost pride although any chance that they had of qualifying for the last eight have long since disappeared. On Matchday 6 group leaders Monterrey travel to Honduras to face Marathón whilst second place Saprissa go to the USA to play Seattle.
Group D saw the match of the round as the CFU Caribbean champion Puerto Rico Islanders came from behind to defeat Deportivo Toluca and overtake the Mexicans into first place. Héctor Mancilla scored twice in the first twenty three minutes of the game and it looked as though coach José Manuel de la Torre would be celebrating his team’s qualification in to the quarter-finals. Englishman David Foley started the comeback trail for the Islanders with his goal nine minutes into the second half and David Horst tied the game at 2-2 with twenty minutes still to play. In a dramatic finish it was Horst who was at hand to score his second and the Islanders’ third goal of an exciting match to seal an unlikely victory for the home team.
The final game on Matchday 6 came on Thursday night in El Salvador where Club Deportivo FAS had slim hopes of keeping their tournament alive but needed a win against Honduran side Olimpia. That task, however, proved an impossible one once Ramiro Bruschi had scored a brace to give Olimpia a 2-0 lead at the break. The visitors then went on to score twice more as they strolled to a 4-1 victory. The win takes Olimpia into first place on ten points, the Islanders two points behind whilst Toluca are a point further back. With three teams fighting it out for two spots Matchday 6 should prove very interesting as PR Islanders face up to a difficult away tie at Olimpia whilst Toluca will hope to see off the challenge of CD FAS in order to qualify for the next round.
WATCH PUERTO RICO ISLANDERS v DEPORTIVO TOLUCA GOALS HERE: