Alajuelense and head coach Oscar Ramirez (right) will face Mexico's Toluca in the 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League semifinals. (Photo: Micaela Alvarado)
PANAMA CITY, Panama – Following a scoreless draw in the first leg last week, Alajuelense secured its first-ever berth in the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) semifinals with a 2-0 win at Arabe Unido on Thursday.
The Manudos are unbeaten in five straight games in the competition and 11 of their last 14. Head coach Oscar Ramirez expressed satisfaction with his team’s achievement.
“We knew that the game was going to be emotional,” said Ramirez. “It was important to score the goal quickly, we had it planned since Costa Rica. After the goal, Arabe Unido had to take risks. We were settling in and the second goal was everything. Arabe Unido was a worthy opponent, they show that Panamanian football is growing.”
The first goal came in the sixth minute through in-form striker Jerry Palacios. The Honduras international, who also scored in a 1-0 win at Club America last October to clinch Alajuelense’s place in the knockout rounds, now has eight career tallies in the competition.
Jonathan McDonald became the club’s all-time leading CCL scorer with four goals, when he made it 2-0 in the 58th minute.
Ramirez and his players have little time to celebrate. They must focus on semifinal opponent Toluca, which -- like Alajuelense – is a two-time CONCACAF champion. The first leg will be played on April 1 in Costa Rica.
“Now the goal is to get that desired final,” the 49-year-old added. “We are among the four best in the area. It is not going to be easy against Toluca, but regardless, we will try to grab the advantage on our turf.”