Mariano Pavone (picture) goes to celebrate after scoring one of his three goals against Sporting Kansas City in a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal on March 19, 2014,in Mexico City. (Photo: Mexsport)
MEXICO CITY -- Argentine striker Mariano Pavone struck for a hat-trick to power Cruz Azul to a 5-1 victory over Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday in the second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) quarterfinal series at the Estadio Azul.
The triumph lifted the five-time CONCACAF champion to a 6-2 aggregate win and into the semifinals against Club Tijuana.
The result gave Mexican clubs a three-series sweep over U.S. sides in the quarterfinals. Tijuana and Toluca had clinched semifinal berths by overcoming the LA Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes, respectively.
Kansas City had entered the game not having allowed a CCL goal in 216 minutes, but that streak was snapped quickly.
Pavone, who had not scored a goal since January 26, struck for two within the opening 24 minutes.
After receiving a pass from Joao Rojas, Pavone eluded Kevin Ellis and drilled a shot into the upper right corner to put La Maquina ahead 1-0 in the second minute.
He doubled the advantage midway through the half. Marco Fabian controlled a long ball on his chest before forcing goalkeeper Eric Kronberg to make a save. Pavone, however, swept in to slot home the rebound.
Kansas City came back and actually took the aggregate lead on away goals in the 43rd minute off a short corner kick. The ball came to Benny Feilhaber on the left side and the former U.S. international beat goalkeeper Jesus Corona with an effort at near post.
Altitude and fatigue seemed to catch up to the current U.S. champion in the second half, while Cruz Azul got its second wind.
Ten minutes after the break, Pavone netted his third. Sergio Napoles dribbled into the left corner and sent a cross into the middle of the penalty area that the 31-year-old knocked home for a 3-1 lead.
Mauro Formica made 4-1 as he put in a rebound in the 66th minute.
Four minutes later, Cristian Gimenez punctuated the scoreline with a fine effort for his seventh career CCL goal.
Cruz Azul closed out with a solid defensive effort and has now allowed one goal or less in 12 of its last 14 matches in the competition.