– COLUMBUS, Ohio – Steven Lenhart and Robbie Rogers scored second-half goals and the Columbus Crew beat the Puerto Rico Islanders 2-0 Tuesday night to open the Group Stage of the CONCACAF Champions League.
It was a sixth-straight victory for Columbus and first in the Champions League, coming after dominating possession throughout and limiting Puerto Rico to a handful of looks at goal.
The result gave Columbus the early lead in Group C with Cruz Azul set to host Saprissa on Wednesday.
Puerto Rico, which reached the semifinals of last season’s Champions League, was playing the third and last match without manager Colin Clarke, who was ejected from the title match of the Caribbean Club Champions Cup.
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The Islanders, managed only one scoring opportunity in the first half, that in the 35th minute when a ball deflected off the heal of Panamanian referee Roberto Moreno and ended up at the feet of Nicholas Addlerly.
Addlerly had several touches before reaching the penalty area and shooting through the legs of Chad Marshall – but into the outside netting of Will Hesmer’s goal.
Puerto Rico often defended with nine and 10 men, frustrating the Major League Soccer-leading Crew, which had its best chances before Lenhart’s goal within a minute of each other late in the first half.
Emmanuel Ekpo had a clean look from from 22 meters to force Bill Gaudette into a leaping block in the 36th, and 50 seconds later Gaudette again had to push high a shot from Alejeandro Moreno at the right post.
Addlery earned Puerto Rico’s first corner in the 47th, but the game again quickly again turned Columbus’ way. With Lenhart replacing defensive-minded Jedidiah Zayner to start the second half, the Crew finally converted in the 58th minute. Brian Carroll lofted a ball to the left side of the penalty area, where Marshall sent a square ball through the goal box and an unmarked Lenhart tapped it in.
Columbus continued to push forward and added the insurance in the 79th when Eddie Gaven sprinted down the right side of the area, crossed a ball that Moreno let go and Rogers tapped in from inside the six-yard box.
The Crew next will travel to Mexico City to face Cruz Azul on August 26, while the Islanders go to Costa Rica to play Saprissa a day earlier.