PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI – A late goal from Jesus Lara broke a stalemate and Cruz Azul defeated Valencia 2-1 in a CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) match on Wednesday at the Stade Sylvio Cator. La Maquina has won its opening two games in the competition, assuming sole possession of first place in Group 3, three points ahead of Cartagines.
Valencia’s performance was as thrilling as it was unexpected. An opening 6-1 loss to Herediano may have tempered expectations, but its good form in the Haitian league offered evidence that it could challenge the five-time CONCACAF champion.
Straight from the opening whistle, the match was played on the front foot, with both sides eager to put on a good show. Valencia demonstrated ambition through the attacking pair of Emerson Michel and Roody Joseph, each of whom was active on both sides of the pitch.
Despite the spirited efforts of Valencia in the early going, Cruz Azul would take a 16th minute lead. A ball was played into Allam Bello, who did well to send a header back into the middle of the area. Goalkeeper Frandy Montrevil could gain possession and it was eventually won by Jeronimo Amione. The 23-year-old forward placed a header of his own into an open net to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
In the 36th minute, Joseph nearly equalized for the Vert et Rouge, but his free kick rang off the crossbar.
In the second half, Valencia increased the pressure and nearly leveled once again, when a Walson Agustin right-footed shot flew just wide of the right post.
The host finally broke through in the 71st minute. Geraldy Joseph delivered a cross that found Andre Amy for a header. The ball hit the post and bounced back to Amy, who fired in from close range to make it 1-1.
Valencia was close to earning a famous result and its first ever CCL point, but with five minutes left in regulation time, Cruz Azul netted the decisive score. A ball came to Lara in the area and the 19-year-old’s effort beat Montrevil for a 2-1 victory.
The Mexican side extended its CCL wins record to 27, two more than Monterrey and Santos. It will return to action on September 24, when it welcomes Valencia to the Estadio Azul. Before making that trip, though, the Haitians will face Cartagines in Costa Rica on September 18.