Saprissa rallies in Champions League match

USL News Release

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

SAN JOSE, CR — Saprissa continued its dominance at home against foreign opposition, scoring three unanswered after an initial Puerto Rico Islanders lead to win post their first win in the Group Stage of the CONCACAF Champions League Tuesday.

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Saprissa posted a 2-0-1 record at home in last year’s edition of the Champions League, narrowly missing out on advancing to the knockout stage on the goal differential tiebreaker to Cruz Azul, who went on to eliminate Puerto Rico in the Semifinals and finish as runners-up. It maintained their unbeaten status in the modern era of the CONCACAF competitions dating back to 2002 (11-0-5 total), having previously gone 8-0-4 in the Champions Cup en route to a title in 2005 and runners-up finishes in 2004 and 2008. Current group leaders Columbus Crew and Cruz Azul, 2-0 winners last week, meet Wednesday at 10:00 pm ET on Fox Soccer Channel.

With standout goalkeeper Bill Gaudette out of the lineup due to an accumulation of yellow cards, the Islanders opened up play beyond their normal defensive posture on the road and it appeared they would find success with the decision.

After the clubs tested one other for the first 15 minutes of the match, Puerto Rico’s Dan Gargan shot right at keeper in the 17th from 20 yards after Sean Fraser made a nice run into the left corner of the area.

Saprissa had a dangerous chance five minutes later when a ball sent to the far post was headed on goal by Jair Arrieta, but back-up Mike Behonick made a quick stop. The rebound bounced sharply off the turf, foiling Olman Vargas’ chance at tapping it in.

A brilliant play by Domenic Mediate put the Islanders on top a few minutes later. Mediate controlled a bouncing low ball out of the back by Cristian Arrieta, taking it off his chest 40 yards out, beating a defender and driving toward goal before placing a perfect strike inside the far post from the top of the area in the 25th minute, silencing the home faithful.

Just after the half-hour mark Sandy Gbandi rifled a 40-yard shot just over the bar.

A turnover deep in the Islanders offensive third led to a quick counter from the hosts for the equalizer. The ball came to Armando Alonso, who sent it across from the right flank to the center of the area. Jairo Arrieta chested the ball down and struck it off the bounce, ricocheting his blast off the underside of the crossbar and narrowly over the goal line in the 34th minute.

Five minutes later, the Costa Ricans struck again on a quick shot from 25 yards that banged off the left post and in by Walter Centeno. Alonso was on the assist again, slipping the ball off to him across the center of the field in front of the Islanders back line.

Puerto Rico’s hopes of rallying in the second half were quickly dashed when they went down two just three minutes into the period. A quick counter finished with a cross from Andres Nunez sent into the area. Alonso headed the ball down off the turf and inside the right post.

In the 73rd, the same luck off the woodwork that was in favor of Saprissa went against the Islanders when Scott Jones drove into the box from the left flank and fired a shot from eight yards that slightly glanced off the defender, forcing a reaction stop from the keeper that deflected off the near post and back into his hands as he laid prone on the turf in front of goal, narrowly avoiding a tap in by recently inserted Nicholas Addlery.

Then a header by a Saprissa defender deep in the area only cleared halfway out in the 80th minute went right to Gbandi inside the area, but his shot soared just over the bar.