SAN JOSE – Saprissa came from behind to defeat the Puerto Rico Islanders 3-1 Tuesday night in a CONCACAF Champions League encounter at the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa.
The visitors clearly missed the services of their outstanding goalkeeper Bill Gaudette, who was serving a suspension for yellow card accumulation. As a result, Puerto Rico’s usually solid defense displayed uncharacteristic flaws that enabled Saprissa to get open looks at the goal.
Domenico Mediate put the 2009 Champions League semifinalist ahead in the 26th minute, controlling the ball with his chest and dribbling just inside the box before unloading a shot at the far post that Saprissa goalkeeper Fausto Gonzalez could not reach.
The Purple Monster was undaunted and leveled nine minutes later. Armando Alonso crossed from the right, finding an unmarked Jairo Arrieta on the penalty spot. The forward celebrated his 26th birthday with a goal as he chested the ball and uncorked a right-footed blast just under the crossbar. Mike Behonick, Gaudette’s replacement, could not react quickly enough and did not see the ball barely land over the line.
Saprissa struck again in the 40th minute, when veteran midfielder Walter Centeno struck a beautiful right-footed shot from 20-yards out, beating Behonick to his right.
Puerto Rico head coach Colin Clarke made no half-time changes and Saprissa increased its advantage to two goals only four minutes after the interval. Andre Nunez was allowed space on the left to deliver a cross that Alonso headed downward, leaving Behonick stranded.
The Islanders nearly got back into the game in the 73rd minute, but Gonzalez did well to put a Scott Jones attempt from the left side of the box onto the post. Just as it appeared the ball was going to cross the line, it somehow spun in reverse on the stadium carpet.
Sandy Gbandi hit the bar in the 80th minute after a defensive header by Saprissa’s Douglas Sequeira fell in his direction.
It was not to be Puerto Rico’s night, posting its second loss in two games.
After dropping its opener 2-0 at Cruz Azul, Saprissa will be pleased to obtain its first points of the competition and returns to Champions League action at home on September 16 against the Columbus Crew. The Islanders host Cruz Azul at the Estadio Juan Ramon Loubriel in Bayamon one day earlier.