TIJUANA, Mexico – Club Tijuana got a goal from second-half substitute Fidel Martinez to defeat Luis Angel Firpo 1-0 in a CONCACAF Champions League match on Wednesday. The result takes the Mexican side to seven points after three games, giving it a six-point advantage over second-place Firpo in Group 7.
After a first half that did not generate much in the way of solid chances on goal, the Xolos emerged from the break in a purposeful mood. Firpo may have accepted a point at the Estadio Caliente, especially since the two sides played to a scoreless draw on August 8 in El Salvador. The host, though, had other ideas and pressed for a goal.
On a short corner played into the box in the 54th minute, the ball fell to Joe Corona, but his left-footed attempt was saved by Firpo goalkeeper Dennis Salinas.
Three minutes later, Martinez entered the game in place of the U.S. international. His presence stretched the Pamperos’ defense, while giving Tijuana a varied offensive look.
In the 58th minute, a cross from the right found Martinez at the far post for a header. A jumping Salinas made the stop, however, he appeared to injure his leg as he landed. Following a few minutes of medical attention, the goalkeeper remained the game, although he did not seem to have the same range of mobility.
Greg Garza could have given the Xolos a lead in the 63rd minute. Another cross from the right found the 22-year-old completely unmarked 12 yards from the goal. Though there was time to take a touch, he tried to one time it with his left foot, slicing a shot high and wide.
Salinas would then make an errant pass on the right side of his own box in the 72nd minute that allowed an alert Paul Arriola to intercept the ball. As he burst past Mauricio Quintanilla, the 18-year-old American forward unleashed an effort just wide of the near post.
Martinez became the hero with eight minutes remaining in regulation time. The Ecuadorian’s intelligent movement created space at the far post, allowing him to get on the end of a left-sided corner kick. Unmarked, he rose high to head downwards. Salinas managed to block the ball, which ultimately fell across the line.
Club Tijuana needs only a draw in its last group game against Honduras’ Victoria on September 26 to clinch advancement to the quarterfinals. Firpo, which has scored only three goals in its last six CCL games, must beat Victoria on September 19 to avoid elimination.