Pablo Herrera scored three goals in Cartagines' 4-2 CONCACAF Champions League win over host Isidro Metapan on August 8, 2013, in San Salvador, El Salvador. (Photo: Salvador Melendez)
SAN SALVADOR -- Pablo Herrera struck for a hat-trick as Cartagines made its CONCACAF Champions League debut a memorable one, defeating host Isidro Metapan 4-2 in Thursday’s Group 8 opener at the Estadio Cuscatlan.
Andres Flores added a goal for the Costa Rican side. Metapan, which is one of only two teams to qualify for every edition of the confederation tournament, benefitted from an own-goal and a Nicolas Munoz tally.
All the first-half scoring was jammed into a five-minute span just prior to the interval.
Cartagines struck first in the 40th minute. With ample room on the right flank, Herrera raced into the penalty area and fired a shot that was blocked. The ball, however, bounded back to Herrera on the right side and he blasted a five-yard attempt past goalkeeper Henry Hernandez.
That lead was short-lived as Metapan equalized only three minutes later. Cartagines’ Esteban Sirias directed a pass meant for Munoz into his own net to level the score at 1-1.
Just as the first half entered stoppage time, the visitors grabbed a 2-1 halftime lead. After Metapan was unable to clear a corner kick, Cartagines won an aerial battle at the top of the box and directed the ball toward the net, allowing Flores to volley home.
Munoz, Metapan's all-time leading CCL goal-scorer, added to his total in the 56th minute. A free kick from the right flank was sent into the penalty area past several players to unmarked Munoz and he easily converted from point-blank range to knot the score once again. Munoz, who was last year's joint scoring leader with Santos Laguna's Carlos Darwin Quintero (six goals apiece), has seven career goals in the competition.
Three minutes later, Munoz was denied a hat-trick when Flores slid across the left side of the goal to block a shot after Alfaro was rounded.
Herrera restored the visitors' lead in the 68th minute. Randall Brenes shuffled a short pass to an onrushing Herrera, who ran into the box and forced Hernandez out of the net. The former Alajuelense and Aalesund player went around the keeper and rolled the ball into the net for a 3-2 edge.
Herrera completed his night of brilliance in the 79th minute, nut-megging Hernandez for his third goal.
The Costa Rican club will play its second match on the road, visiting the LA Galaxy on Aug. 20, before welcoming Metapan in a return match on Aug. 27.