Jerry Palacios celebrates after scoring in Alajuelense's 1-0 CONCACAF Champions League win over host Club America on October 22, 2013, at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. (Photo: Mexsport)
MEXICO CITY, Mexico – A second half goal by Jerry Palacios lifted Alajuelense to a 1-0 win over Club America on Tuesday at the Estadio Azteca, booking the Manudos a place in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.
Ariel Soto played the ball into the box from the left touchline that the unmarked Honduran international headed home from 11-yards out to give Alajuelense a lead in the 55th minute.
The Costa Rican side finished atop Group 4 with nine points and becomes the third club from that nation to reach the knockout stage, following Herediano (2012-13) and Saprissa (2010-11).
Club America, competing in the tournament for the first time, finished second with six points and Panama’s Sporting San Miguelito was third with three points.
Needing a victory to advance, America attacked with more urgency after the goal. It earned a dangerous free kick just past the hour mark, but Rubens Sambueza’s attempt from 28 yards was parried away by Patrick Pemberton, who dived to his left.
In the 64th minute, Raul Jimenez – who scored off a bicycle kick for Mexico against Panama in a World Cup qualifier just 11 days ago, also at the Azteca -- hammered a shot off the right post after latching onto a low cross across the box from Sambueza.
Nine minutes later, Aquivaldo Mosquera had two golden chances to equalize for the host. Alajuelense captain Porfirio Lopez blocked his first shot and Pemberton kicked away the rebound.
Alajuelense had the first scoring chance of the scoreless first half, when Juan Guzman took a low shot from distance that skipped on the wet surface, before it was knocked away by Moises Munoz in the 19th minute.
Jimenez took a long punt from Munoz off his chest in the 24th and passed to Sambueza, who returned the favor to Jimenez. The 22-year-old’s effort from 22-yards out was saved by Pemberton.
Alajuelense, though, held on for the victory – even though it would have advanced with only a draw. It was their second 1-0 victory over America in the Group Stage. Alvaro Sanchez netted a late penalty kick August 29 in Alajuela.
NOTES: Club America will not have a chance to break the record for the most club titles in CONCACAF history (5), a record it shares with Cruz Azul…Alajuelense has conceded one goal or less in six of its last seven CCL games.