Jonathan McDonald (right) scored for Alajuelense in its 2-0 win over host Arabe Unido in their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal on March 20, 2014, in Panama City, Panama. (Photo: Micaela Alvarado)
PANAMA CITY, Panama – Alajuelense sealed a place in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals for the first time on Thursday, defeating Arabe Unido 2-0 in the second leg of their quarterfinal to win the series by the same aggregate score.
Jerry Palacios and Jonathan McDonald scored one goal each at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez to set-up a meeting with Mexico’s Toluca in a battle of two-time confederation champions.
After a scoreless first leg, Alajuelense needed just six minutes to net the critical away goal as Jerry Palacios found the back of the net.
Following a corner kick, Arabe Unido goalkeeper Alexander Andreve twice attempted to punch the ball away. Palacios, however, pounced to hammer home low from 6-yards out.
It was the Honduras international’s eighth career CCL goal – five with CD Marathon and three with Alajuelense.
In the 58th minute, McDonald all but sealed the Manudos’ progression with a powerful header at the edge of the six-yard box that deflected off Andreve and into the net to make it 2-0. The 26-year-old became the club’s all-time leading CCL scorer with four goals.
Against the run of play, Alajuelense nearly doubled its advantage in the 28th minute, when Kevin Sancho burst through the Expreso Azul defense, forcing goalkeeper Alexander Andreve off his line. Sancho laid the ball off to Johan Venegas, but with a gaping goal in front of him, the forward put the ball wide of the far post.
On one of Arabe Unido’s more productive set pieces, Abidel Arroyo latched onto Joel Barcenas’ free kick. Alajuelense goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton, though, easily corralled the deflected header.
Jose Salvatierra nearly got on the scoresheet for the visitors only to see his effort 35-yards out crash off the crossbar.
On either side of the break Arabe had two solid opportunities. Midfielder Humberto Ward shot high 12 yards from goal and Fidel Caesar sent a header wide of the post.
With Pemberton off his line to challenge a cross in the 73rd minute, second-half substitute Enrico Small had the host’s best chance of the game, but his downward header from eight yards bounced off the woodwork.
Alajuelense extended its CCL shutout streak to 503 minutes and is unbeaten in its last five in the competition.
NOTES: Arabe Unido was eliminated at the quarterfinal stage in the 2010/11 edition of the tournament, 4-0 on aggregate, by Cruz Azul.