MEXICO CITY, Mexico – As the final chapter in this Champions League run is being written, the Montreal Impact put in a gutsy and sound defensive effort in a historic 1-1 draw, despite a late equalizer by Club América, at Estadio Azteca, on Wednesday night, in the first leg of the Champions League finals.
“It is obviously a good result for us, but we know it’s not over,” said Impact head coach Frank Klopas. “I’m proud of my team and we’re very happy to be going home to our great fans. We’ll be ready to play an even better match.”
“I think it’s a great result for us,” said midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker. “It was not an easy place to come and get a result. At times, we played some great football and we showed what we were capable as a team. We could have done a little bit more some other times, but in the end, we kept ourselves in it.”
Impact sustained expected pressure from the home side for most of the first half, showing the incredibly loud Club América fans that the Canadian side belonged at this stage, with superb defending and timely counter attacks, including a spectacular push forward to score the game’s first goal.
Laurent Ciman, who was particularly strong in his own end, switched a long ball to Hassoun Camara down the right flank where the Frenchman played it one-time with his chest onto the path of a charging Dominic Oduro. The Ghanaian striker then sent in a low cross into the box, dummied by Dilly Duka and right onto the foot of Ignacio Piatti, who fired it low past Moisés Muñoz in the 16th minute.
“We were compact tonight and we knew they would have more possession,” added forward Dominic Oduro. “The main focus was to hit them on the counter and we did that well. We showed a lot of composure as a team and we’re going back to Montreal with hopes of winning it at home.”
A questionable call by the referee and then a late free-kick in the 89th minute lead to striker Oribe Peralta converting a header from in close to tie things up with mere minutes left.
Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush had a strong game in goal, facing 28 shots, including nine on target, and made a number of big saves, including two on Darwin Quintero - a spectacular diving stop to his right in the first half and another big block from in close in the second.
The Impact plays the second and decisive leg of the Champions League finals next Wednesday, April 29, at Olympic Stadium (TVA Sports, TSN Radio 690), in front of the second largest crowd in club history – a sellout of 59,020.
Highlight-filled first half
First chance of the game came to the home side when Michael Arroyo was played in behind the Impact defence in the 9th minute, but his tough angle shot hit the outside netting.
Piatti came close to adding a second when he made a half-field run into the box, but his chip attempt went wide far side at the 30-minute mark.
Club América defender Miguel Samudio found himself inside the box in the 32nd minute, but his first time attempt landed just on top of goal.
Oduro was breaking in alone on goal in the 44th minute, but he was taken down by Osvlado Martinez. Despite a clear scoring opportunity being taken away, the referee only showed a yellow card to the Eagles player, instead of a red on the play.
Sambuenza came close to finding the equalizer in the 67th minute when his long distance strike bounced off the crossbar.
MTL – GK-Evan Bush; D-Hassoun Camara (Eric Miller 66’), Bakary Soumare, Laurent Ciman, Donny Toia; M-Nigel Reo-Coker (Patrice Bernier 76’), Calum Mallace, Andrés Romero, Ignacio Piatti, Dilly Duka (Maxim Tissot 71’); F-Dominic Oduro
Subs not used: GK-John Smits; D-Wandrille Lefèvre; F-Jack McInerney; Kenny Cooper
CA – GK-Moises Munoz; D-Erik Pimentel, Miguel Samudio, Pablo Aguilar, Paul Aguilar; M-Cristian Pellerano (José Daniel Guerrero 70’), Darwin Quintero, Osvaldo Martinez (Oribe Peralta 46’), Rubens Sambueza; F-Dario Benedetto (Martin Zuniga 80’), Michael Arroyo
Subs not used: Hugo Gonzalez, Moises Velasco, Osmar Mares, Zaid Veyna
MTL – Piatti (Oduro) 16’
CA – Peralta (Sambueza) 89’
MTL – Piatti 17’
CA – Martinez 45’
MTL – Duka 71’
MTL – Romero 88’
CA – Aguilar (Paul) 89’