Thursday, February 26, 2009
BAYAMON, PR – The Puerto Rico Islanders overcame a rusty start action to rally from a deficit in the second half for a 2-1 CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal victory over CD Marathon Thursday evening. Goals from newcomer Nicholas Addlery and second-half sub Kendall Jagdeosingh handed the in-season league leaders (4-1-3) from Honduras just their second defeat of the tournament as well as for the year.
Coming into their first competitive match since the tournament’s group phase concluded in the fall, the Islanders came out blazing in the match with numerous dangerous chances in the early going only to see the finishing either fail them or force goalkeeper Juan Obelar into a good save.
In the seventh minute veteran Petter Villegas ripped a low shot from 35 yards to the lower left corner that Obelar had to dive to knock over the line. Villegas would be taken down two minutes later 28 yards from goal, giving 2008 league MVP Jonathan Steele an opportunity on a free kick that fell into the box and was deflected just wide of goal.
Marathon got their first good look on goal in the 13th minute when Jerry Palacios’ glancing header inside the box flew wide of the frame.
A minute later Villegas again created a dangerous opportunity from an acute angle on the right side, sending a low, driving shot into the six that took a late deflection and nearly got past the keeper.
After a lull in chances, Puerto Rico’s Cristian Arrieta began another series of attacks by the Islanders when he sent a beautiful long ball across the pitch from the right side in the 33rd minute that found Steele open on the left side of the box. Steele, however, was unable to send it on goal with the one-timer.
In the 36th minute Sandy Gbandi came up out of the back to blast a long range shot on a ball laid off by captain Noah Delgado, who had beaten two defenders in the left corner, but the shot rose over the bar.
An Islanders free kick a minute later from the right touch line found defender Nigel Henry inside the box, but his header was handled well by the keeper.
Another minute later a ball by Steele into the box was headed from the right corner of the six by John Krause to Martin Nunez, who missed a wide open header from the middle of the six.
The miss nearly turned disastrous just moments later in the 39th when Palacios ran onto a through ball from the midfield that got behind the defense, but he was unable to beat Islanders netminder Bill Gaudette one-on-one in the box as the keeper made a fantastic sliding save in the middle of the area.
The save was the first of numerous great saves by the Goalkeeper of the Year on the night, but just two minutes later a long ball from the left flank stunned Puerto Rico in the 41st minute. Seemingly out of nowhere as play slowly moved into the Puerto Rico end, Oscar Bonilla launched the ball inside the six and found Palacios for an easy redirection into the back of the net as he took advantage of a defensive lapse in marking.
Seemingly stunned by the goal for the remainder of the first half, the Islanders came out a bit flat after the break and nearly cost them in the 55th when another play from nowhere nearly caught Gaudette. Another long ball from Bonilla found Saul Martinez for a header inside the box, but Gaudette stretched to get a hand to the ball and the slap was just enough to send it off the post and back into his arms as he fell to the pitch.
Martin Antonio Chavez, racing toward the box in the 60th, unleashed a long shot that forced Gaudette to make another good save. A pacey run by Chavez allowed him to get a good shot off inside the box in the 71st that forced Gaudette to make yet another close-range save.
Facing a daunting task of having to travel to Honduras for the second leg next week trailing, the late heroics seen the earlier stages of the tournament came to fore once again.
A quick free kick in the 73rd found the Marathon defense flat-footed as Delgado got behind his marker on the left flank, allowing him send the ball inside the area, but Addlery’s header went just wide of the post.
Addlery made up for the miss just a minute later, however, to level terms. A crafty chip lofted into the box by 2008 league assist leader Steele found the member of the 2008 champion Vancouver Whitecaps charging into the area. The newcomer’s glancing header caught Obelar coming off his line, dropping into the open net from 12 yards out.
The goal combined with the energy of second half sub Jagdeosingh, who was making excellent challenges in the offensive end, to push the Islanders into a second wind to finish out the match and score an all-important second tally for the advantage hitting the road.
A stunning brilliant shot from a narrow angle on the left flank by Jagdeosingh sent the crowd into a frenzy in the 81st minute. Gathering the ball all alone in the left corner he slowly worked his way just inside the left side of the area and snapped a quick rocket that took a slight glance off Palacios as it rose into the far back netting of the goal past a stunned Obelar, who was not quick enough getting his hands up.
It was only the second loss of the tournament for Marathon, who fell 2-1 on the road to Costa Rica’s Deportivo Saprissa during group play, which included a win and draw against Mexico’s Cruz Azul, 1-0 winners in the first leg of their Quarterfinal series.
Coupled with Montreal’s 2-0 victory over Mexico’s Santos Laguna Wednesday, the Islanders (4-2-3) and Impact (5-1-3) have an impressive combined record of 9-3-6 in the competition.