• Thursday Dec 06, 2012

    Arabe Unido reigns in Panama, returns to CCL

    PANAMA CITY, Panama -- Arabe Unido was crowned champion of Panama for the twelfth time on Sunday, eclipsing the mark it previously shared with Tauro atop the list of national champions.

    The Colon side now holds ten titles from the Liga Panameña de Futbol, as well as two crowns from the now defunct Liga Nacional de Futbol, recognized by FIFA as Panama's official championship when Arabe Unido won the title twice, in the 1994/95 and 1995/96 seasons.

    The Expreso Azul, for the time being, stands alone at the top of Panamanian soccer as a record champion, after Sunday's 4-1 win over a brave Chepo FC side that was seeking its first-ever league title.

    After winning the 2009 Apertura and the 2010 Clausura, the perennial contenders had gone four seasons without lifting the trophy. That streak came to an end Sunday at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, as team captain and old hand Orlando Rodriguez netted twice in the first half hour to send the Expreso Azul on its way.

    Chepo got back in the game with a goal on the half hour mark from Ricardo Romero, but Abdiel Arroyo and Jose Gonzalez sealed the deal for Arabe Unido on the march to that twelfth crown.

    Gonzalez, 21, who scored the game's final goal an hour into the contest, was a key figure in Unido's late season surge, which saw it nip at the heels of fast-starting Rio Abajo for the top place in the regular season standings.

    Arabe Unido wound up second in the table, then saw off third place Plaza Amador in the semifinals. Though few will forget upstart Rio Abajo's spectacular campaign in its first year in the top flight, the twelfth star rising over Colon will surely be the moment that defines the Panamanian Apertura 2012 in years to come.

    With the league title comes a valuable pass for Arabe Unido to the 2013/14 CONCACAF Champion League. The Blue Express is no stranger to regional play, having made it all the way to the quarterfinals of the 2009/10 Champions League.

    Along the way, the Panamanian side knocked off eventual title winner Pachuca by a score of 4-1 in an August 2009 group stage match. In that memorable season, Rodriguez struck for eight of Arabe Unido's 15 CCL goals, with performances both the forward and his team will be hoping to repeat in the second semester of 2013.

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