Jonathan Steele (center) works the ball through the Cruz Azul defense
Photos by Joaquín Hernádez
3/17/2009 – BAYAMON, Puerto Rico – Nicholas Addlery scored his third goal in as many games to help the Puerto Rico Islanders beat eight-time Mexican league champion Cruz Azul 2-0 Tuesday night in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals.

Puerto Rico, entering its sixth year in the United Soccer Leagues’ First Division – the second tier of North American soccer, is the first Caribbean team in 14 years to reach the final four of CONCACAF’s premier club competition and is trying to become the first to win the title since Trinidad’s Defense Force in 1985.

Addlery, a 27-year-old Jamaican forward who had played with D.C. United in Major League Soccer in 2007, was acquired by Puerto Rico in February. He scored in both legs of the Islanders’ 3-1 aggregate victory over CD Marathon of Honduras, and tallied for a third consecutive game in the 36th minute before a standing-room only crowd of 13,700 at Estadio Juan Roman Loubriel.

Sandy Gbandi, who scored the first goal in the fourth minute, drove a 45-meter free kick into the penalty area, and Addlery extended his right foot to deflect the ball with his toe past goalkeeper Alfonso Blanco from the edge of the goal box.

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Gbandi gave Pueto Rico the lead, converting after the work done by Joshua Hansen at the top of the penalty area. After Addlery created a chance for the Islanders 43 seconds after the opening kickoff, Hansen worked the ball to the top of the area before drawing Gerardo Torrado and Julio Cesar Dominguez toward him. He split the two with a ball off to the right and Gbandi drove a right-footed shot inside the far post from 15 meters.

Cruz Azul, which eliminated Mexico City rival Pumas UNAM in the quarterfinals with a pair of 1-0 victories, has won only once in its last eight games in the Mexican Clausura, falling to 12th in the 18-team league.

The Cementeros lost striker Pablo Zeballos in the 27th minute, leaving the game holding his left side and replaced by Julio Cesar Pardini. Facing a team which is still more than a month before the start of its league season, Cruz Azul enjoyed sustained periods of possession and earned five corners in the first half but were denied on several good occasions by Puerto Rico goalkeeper Bill Gaudette.

Gaudette, who was given a large amount of the credit for enabling the Islanders to reach the knockout phase, again produced several good saves, including a pair of acrobatic efforts in the 71st minute to frustrate Cruz Azul.

Cruz Azul, which has won four of five matches at home in the Champions League and drawn the other, will host the second leg April 7 in Estadio Azul in Mexico City.