Hernandez strike helps Columbus survive late Houston charge
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Hernandez strike helps Columbus survive late Houston charge

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OHIO The Columbus Crew are the first team to punch their ticket to the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup quarterfinals after playing to a 1-1 draw with the Houston Dynamo on Tuesday evening in their Round of 16 second leg at Lower.com field in Columbus, Ohio.

Juan Camilo Hernandez scored in the latter stages of the first half to put the Crew in control, but a late Houston penalty conversion made for a nervy finale. Ultimately, Columbus saw things out to advance 2-1 on aggregate.

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The two sides traded chances in the first half, with a direct brand of play coming from both attacks. Columbus were able to break the deadlock shortly before intermission in the 40’, with Hernandez hauling in a diagonal pass from Christian Ramirez, making a slight move and then firing in at the near post, beating Dynamo GK Steve Clark for a 1-0 lead.

Houston came out for the second half with purpose and had two good cracks at goal shortly after the re-start, with Aliyu Ibrahim going wide in the 48’ and then Amine Bassy having a shot saved by Crew GK Patrick Schulte in the 53’.

The Dynamo were committing numbers forward in search of a goal, but it allowed space to open in their defensive half, and Columbus nearly made them pay in the 57’ when a long ball forward ended with Hernandez crossing to Jacen Russell Rowe, who sliced over the crossbar.

Columbus started to impose themselves, especially as play drifted into the final quarter-hour, using their slick passing to leave the Dynamo defenders chasing.

But Houston refused to go quietly, and a deep cross in the 88’ resulted in a Columbus handball and a penalty. Griffin Dorsey stepped up and hammered home the spot kick to suddenly make it a 1-1 affair, putting Houston within a goal of advancing.

In the end, though, Columbus secured the result they needed to advance to their first Champions Cup quarterfinal since 2021. It will face the winner of the series between Tigres and Orlando, which will be determined later.