Action from the CONCACAF Champions League semifinal, first leg match between Toluca (left) and host Alajuelense on April 1, 2014, in Alajuela, Costa Rica. (Photo: Mexsport)
ALAJUELA, Costa Rica – Toluca head Jose Cardozo was full of praise for his squad after it earned a valuable away win against Alajuelense on Tuesday in the opener of their CONCACAF Champions League semifinal series.
The former Paraguay international had good reason to be proud. The Red Devils won at this stage of the competition for the first time in three attempts, defeating a team that had never lost a CCL game at home in nine previous outings.
“We planned a very smart game,” said Cardozo. “We had to wait for the right moment to attack the opponent. I studied the opponent and my players were intelligent.”
The 10-time Mexican champion was able to take advantage of its best scoring chance when defender Paulo Da Silva netted his first-ever CCL goal off a corner kick in the second half.
Alajuelense, which has been shutout in two straight CCL home encounters, was unable to find the back of the net despite having several opportunities. Jonathan McDonald, the Manudos’ all-time leading CCL scorer, missed on a penalty kick. For Cardozo, that was the difference in the match.
“We had a bit of luck,” the 43-year-old noted. “They had a penalty and did not take advantage. That’s where you have to score goals.”
Toluca will return home with an advantage and will look to seal a berth in the final at the Estadio Nemesio Diez on April 8.
“They will need to go to Toluca and plan a different match,” concluded Cardozo. “In Mexico, we are going to regain three players who are in the national team and there we are going to try to attack them as well.”
Alajuelense head coach Oscar Ramirez expressed regret that his team could not get on the scoreboard, but remained optimistic that his team can come back in the return leg.
“The series remains open,” said Ramírez. “We have arguments to score a goal there. You have to put it in. Football is about goals. There are no excuses, they earned the goal.”
The Manudos last visit to Mexico on October 22, 2013, was a memorable one. They topped Club America at the Azteca, 1-0, to book a place in the CCL’s knockout rounds.