Paulo Da Silva (left) goes to celebrate after scoring the only goal of the game in Toluca's 1-0 win over host Alajuelense in their CONCACAF Champions League semifinal, first leg match on April 1, 2014. (Photo: Mexsport)
ALAJUELA, Costa Rica – Defender Paulo Da Silva scored in the second half to lift Toluca to a 1-0 win over Alajuelense in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League semifinal series at the Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto on Tuesday.
The second leg will be played at Estadio Nemesio Diez on April 8. The winner takes on either Cruz Azul or Club Tijuana in the two-legged final.
Da Silva went from nearly being the goat to the hero in a span of five minutes, heading home Juan Manuel Salgueiro’s in-swinging corner kick the 71st minute for a critical away goal.
It was the first goal Alajuelense conceded in 574 minutes of CCL play, breaking Pachuca’s tournament record by nearly 50 minutes.
Five minutes earlier, Da Silva helplessly watched Jonathan McDonald, Alajuelense’s all-time leading scorer in the CCL, step to the spot after the Toluca captain tripped Johan Venegas inside the box.
The forward put his attempt over the crossbar to silence the large throng of home supporters.
Toluca goalkeeper Cesar Lozano made his best save in the 81st minute, scrambling to the far post to get a piece of Venegas’ shot from the edge of the six-yard box. A header off the ensuing Alajuelense corner came tantalizingly close to landing inside the far post.
Paraguayan forward Edgar Benitez had two dangerous chances inside the opening 12 minutes for Toluca, but he first hammered an open shot wide from 22-yards out in the third minute.
Nine minutes later, a deflected Alajuelense clearance bounced to his feet and the Paraguay international first danced around Jhonny Acosta before goalkeeper Alfonso Quesada got a piece of his shot from the edge of the six-yard box.
In the 29th minute, Quesada got his fingertips on a blistering shot from distance by Salgueiro that resulted in another Toluca corner kick.
McDonald was the most dangerous player in the attacking third for the host and came the closest to breaking the stalemate five minutes before the break. The 26-year-old, though, crashed a curling effort off the left post.
The loss was Alajuelense’s first at home in CCL play after 10 games.