Striker Enner Valencia recorded a hat trick as the Tigres overcame a first-leg deficit in imperious fashion, defeating Saprissa 5-1.
Coach Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti basically sent out the same line-up that was unable to score in Costa Rica and the Tigres blew away Saprissa with 4 first-half goals to advance to a quarterfinal match-up against MLS club Houston Dynamo.
The Dynamo outmuscled Guatemala’s Guastatoya, winning the return leg at home 2-1 after scraping by with a 1-0 win in Central America.
Elsewhere, Toronto – last year’s losing finalist in the Concacaf Champions League – was eliminated by Panama’s Independiente.
Tigres 5, Saprissa 1
Enner Valencia (pictured at top) scored three times and forced a mistake that led to the first goal as the Liga MX leaders romped past Saprissa on Tuesday night.
The Monterrey-based team coasted past the Costa Rican club on a 5-2 aggregate after a quarter-hour of nervousness in the return match at home.
After a lackluster performance in the first leg in Central America, the Tigres opened the game at Estadio Universitario by fumbling two early scoring chances. Then Tigres goalie Nahuel Guzmán made a nice save, palming a blazing shot from Mariano Torres over the crossbar.
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The shot by Torres was reminiscent of his goal in the first match. Saprissa carried possession t the touch line and the Tigres defense sagged too deep, leaving Torres unmarked at the top of the box. This time, his left-footer was right at Guzmán, though hard and high.
In minute 15, disaster struck. The Tigres sent a long ball behind the defense and Saprissa goalie Aarón Cruz unwisely came way off his line even though defender Aubrey David had a clear path to the ball with Tigres forward Enner Valencia trailing at a safe distance. David headed a back pass to his keeper but Cruz had continued closing in on the ball and the two collided. Valencia only had to watch as the ball trickled into the net.
Ten minutes later, Valencia converted a penalty kick after a hand ball was called on Juan Golobio. It was a hard-luck call, but Saprissa found themselves trailing 2-0 (2-1 aggregate) in minute 25.
Two minutes later, Tigres midfielder Jesús Dueñas made a brilliant 60-meter run down the right flank, eluding three defenders and getting to the touch line. He sized up his options and sent a low pass to the near post where Valencia beat his marker to the ball and banged it into the net from close range. When Edu Vargas bombed one home in minute 37, the score was 4-0 (4-1 aggregate).
Torres brought one back just before halftime, infuriating “Tuca” and he replaced right back Ismael Jiménez who was at fault on the play.
Saprissa never really came close to making a game of it in the second half and the Tigres were content to just run out the clock
Valencia completed his hat trick in minute 61 and “El Volcán” erupted into cheers of “Ti-ge-res, Ti-ge-res!”
Houston Dynamo 2, Guastatoya 1
The Dynamo were awakened from their lethargy in minute 72 when the Guatemala club snatched a goal, threatening to upset the MLS side. The goal by Aarón Navarro knotted the aggregate score at 1-1 and, if neither team scored, the game would have headed to penalty kicks.
But while Guastatoya dreamed of an upset, Houston’s Mauro Manotas equalized, putting the Dynamo up 2-1 on aggregate. Manotas scored again with 5 minutes remaining to put the game away.
Houston will face the Tigres in a two-game quarterfinal series in March. The first leg will be played in Houston and the return match a week later at Estadio Universitario.
Toronto 1, Independiente 1
The Reds dominated in virtually every category at home on Tuesday night, except where it counted … on the scoreboard.
The Panamanian club has stunned Toronto 4-0 last week and basically played 10 men on defense the entire night trying to protect their lead. The Reds let fly 28 times and got 10 shots on net, but José Carlos Guerra was up to the task, recording 9 saves.
Jordan Hamilton gave Toronto faint hope in minute 19, cutting the overall deficit to 1-4, but the Reds could not find space to narrow the gap further.
Toronto finished with 75% possession, but fatigue finally set in and Independiente found an opening as Omar Browne got on the scoresheet in minute 67 to restore the aggregate 4-goal lead.
Independiente moves on to the quarterfinals where they will likely play Sporting KC which holds a 3-0 lead over Toluca after their first-leg match in Kansas City. Their return match is set for Thursday in Toluca.