Santos wins easily in Honduras, but Monterrey battled to a bruising scoreless draw in El Salvador.
I’m gonna go out on a limb here and predict that Santos Laguna will advance to the quarterfinals of the Concacaf Champions League. The Guerreros traveled to Honduras and beat up Marathon 6-2 in the first leg of their Round of 16 series. The two sides will play the return match in Torreón next Wednesday.
In El Salvador, Liga MX table-toppers Monterrey struggled to a 0-0 draw vs Alianza in a game in which the ref evidently forgot to bring his yellow and red card. Monterrey controlled the pace of the game (60% possession) but spent large portions of the match avoiding scything, studs-up tackles.
Elsewhere Wednesday, the New York Red Bulls dispatched Atlético Pantoja, a team from the Dominican Republic.
Marathon 2, Santos 6
Santos – the Clausura 2018 champion in Liga MX – opened their CCL participation with a rout of the 2017-2018 Honduran League champions in San Pedro Sula.
Javier Correa led Santos with a hat trick, opening the scoring in minute 19 straight off a throw-in as he blasted home from an impossible narrow angle. The 26-year-old Argentine striker scored his second from inside the half moon. Correa had time and space to pick his spot and he made no mistake about it.
Correa’s third came in minute 38 after Brian Lozano had dribbled through a crowd at the top of a circle. The Marathon defense cut off his progress and the ball trickled out the other side. Just as a defender tried to clear the loose ball, Correa stuck out his foot and blocked the clearance. The ball bounded over the goalie and Santos retired to the locker room with a comfortable 3-0 advantage.
Perhaps more surprising than the 6 goals Santos scored were the 2 goals scored by the hosts. The Guerreros boast a stingy defense and – unlike the Tigres in their CCL match Tuesday night – Santos played with their starting line-up.
After Santos defender Doria extended the lead to 4-0 in minute 49, Marathon’s Marlon Ramírez answered immediately. Sub Marlos Moreno and striker Julio Furch then found the net in the next 20 minutes and it was 6-1 as the clock approached 70 minutes.
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Justine Arboleda closed out the scoring with a goal for Marathon in minute 74.
As one might expect, Santos dominated the stats. The club from northern Mexico enjoyed 63% possession and earned 10 corner kicks. Santos took 20 shots and 8 were on goal, while Marathon managed 8 shots, 5 of which were on net.
The two clubs meet again in the return match next Wednesday.
Alianza 0, Monterrey 0
If there is one valid complaint about the Concacaf Champions League it is the sub-par officiating that teams are subjected to. Wednesday night’s game in San Salvador’s Estadio Cuscatlán was a case in point.
Jamaica’s Kevin Morrison was assigned the match and he appeared to have little clue what constituted a foul. Alianza players took advantage of Morrison’s unwillingness to use his whistle and gleefully chopped down Monterrey players who had the audacity to be found with the ball at their feet.
Despite 60% possession, Monterrey did not manage a single shot on goal. It would not be a surprise, if the Rayados strategy eventually was “stay out of range.” In other words, circulate the ball, maintain possession, but don’t give Alianza the chance to take out a knee with a rash tackle.
Monterrey rested Liga MX scoring leader Rogelio Funes Mori, but otherwise used its starting line-up. The two teams meet again next Wednesday in Estadio BBVA Bancomer.
Atlético Pantoja 0, NY Red Bulls 2
The MLS Red Bulls used a first-half own-goal by Jean Innocent to settle into their match in the Dominican Republic. New York relied on fouls (21 fouls called, vs 15 by the home team) to control the tempo and cut off promising offensive moves by Atlético Pantoja.
Winger Daniel Royer scored in minute 67 to put the game to bed.
If the score holds up in the second leg, it would appear as though the Red Bulls will face Mexico’s Santos in the quarterfinals.