CONCACAF: Mexican clubs get the job done yet again (+video)
After the conclusion of the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League group stage Mexican clubs have done what comes naturally to them and have swept up half of the available quarter-final spots. Two teams from the United States and one each from Honduras and Costa Rica make up the remainder of the octet of clubs who now have serious aspirations in this competition which will resume in February. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reviews the final matchday.
Group A was sewn up on Tuesday with Major League Soccer champions Real Salt Lake getting the job done in their final group match against their only challengers for top spot Cruz Azul. For the Americans the result was never in doubt after a Paulo Araujo brace and a goal from Collen Warner gave them a 3-0 lead with twenty minutes remaining although Los Cementos did manage to pull a consolation goal back thanks to César Villaluz. Real Salt Lake finished top of the standings with 13 points, Cruz Azul three points behind in second whilst Canadian champions Toronto FC finished their campaign respectably with eight points following their 1-0 home win over Panama’s Arabe Unido.
WATCH REAL SALT LAKE v CRUZ AZUL HIGHLIGHTS HERE:
Santos Laguna topped the group B table in great fashion with a 6-1 home thrashing of Guatemalans Municipal. The game already seemed over at the break with Santos holding a 3-1 advantage and the Mexicans sealed the deal with three further goals to cement first place in the table with thirteen points. Municipal’s defeat meant that Columbus Crew had also qualified for the quarter-finals before their Matchday 6 game against bottom club Joe Public got under way on Thursday night. Emilio Rentería got on the score sheet twice for Columbus who finished off their group stage campaign with a convincing 4-1 win away at the Trinidadian team. This meant Columbus finished one point behind Santos Laguna in second place whilst Joe Public propped up the whole group with only the single point gained from their Matchday 2 game at Municipal to show for their efforts.
Monterrey CF were already assured of their first place finish in Group C before either Matchday 6 encounter was played. The real drama took place on Tuesday as Costa Rica’s Deportivo Saprissa, CONCACAF champions in 2005, took to the field away in Seattle against a Sounders team who, despite their terrible form in this year’s Champions League, were already assured of a place in next season’s tournament thanks to their recent US Open Cup victory. The Sounders took the lead after 17 minutes thanks to Nate Jaqua but Saprissa responded nine minutes later with Jairo Arrieta restoring parity. As the game wore out to a close Saprissa, who had seemed to have dropped two crucial points, scored a last-gasp 89th minute winner with Josué Martinez scoring his second goal of the campaign. As it turned out Marathón lost out in their final game at home to Monterrey by a goal to nil, therefore Saprissa claimed second place by four points from the Hondurans.
WATCH SEATTLE SOUNDERS v DEPORTIVO SAPRISSA GOALS HERE:
Group D came to a close on Wednesday with Toluca clinching second place in the group with a 5-0 pasting of FAS El Salvador thanks mainly to a Héctor Mancilla hat-trick. This win allowed the Mexican side to leapfrog over the Puerto Rico Islanders into second place as the CFU Caribbean club champions went down to a 3-0 defeat in Honduras against group winners Olimpia. The Puerto Ricans were still in the game at the half-time break as they held their hosts to a goalless first forty-five minutes. However the floodgates opened once Roger Rojas bagged his and Olimpia’s opening goal on 53 minutes. After Rojas scored again in the 77th minute it was Fabio de Souza who sealed the Islanders’ fate in the competition by hitting the third goal with nine minutes to go. Olimpia top the group on 13 points, Toluca three points behind whilst the PR Islanders were so near, yet so far with eight points.