Photo by Eric Bolte/USA Today Sports
By FRANCO PANIZO
MONTREAL — For the second game in a row, the Montreal Impact got off to a strong start in an overall impressive first half.
For the second game in a row, the second half proved to be their undoing.
The Impact let an early lead and chance to make history slip away from their grasp, as Club America completed a stirring second-half comeback to pick up a 4-2 victory and win the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League crown on Wednesday night.
Montreal had gotten off to an incredible start in front of the boisterous 61,004 fans that packed into Olympic Stadium for the second leg of the finals, but Andres Romero’s eighth-minute tally did not stand. Like in last week’s first leg, the Liga MX side overwhelmed the Impact after halftime, scoring four straight to win the series via a 5-3 aggregate score.
Dario Benedetto led the way with a hat-trick performance that saw him score the 1-1 equalizer five minutes after the break, and the eventual winner in the 66th minute.
Sandwiched in between those Benedetto strikes was a 64th-minute header from Oribe Peralta that sucked the life out of the crowd. Darwin Quintero nodded a high ball across the goal, and Peralta had to just push it on the open frame.
Quintero also fed Benedetto for the Liga MX side’s fourth tally, which the Argentine forward struck incredibly in the 81st minute.
Montreal got a late consolation prize a minute from the death. Ignacio Piatti played a ball into the path of substitute forward Jack McInerney, who raced to it before slotting a low effort home.
Pushed on by their rowdy crowd, the Impact came out flying in the match and it did not take long for them to strike.
Piatti dribbled by a defender on the right side of the penalty area in the eighth minute and fed Romero, who made a horizontal run of his own before slotting a shot into the back of the net to send the stadium into an eruption of cheers.
Club America nearly tied the game up in the 12th minute, but a close-range header from Peralta was denied by the crossbar before Impact centerback Laurent Ciman cleared the bouncing ball off the goal-line.
The Impact had a glorious opportunity to make it 2-0 and 3-1 in the series on a lightning quick counter in the 24th minute, but Piatti fired a shot at the doorstep too close to Club America goalkeeper Moises Munoz.
While Montreal looked dangerous when hitting in transition through Piatti, Romero and Dominic Oduro, the MLS club’s intensity level fell off in the second half. Club America, who fouled repeatedly to slow the Impact attack, then found the tying goal before opening the floodgates.
In the 50th minute, Osvaldo Martinez clipped a ball into the area that caught Impact centerback Bakary Soumare ball-watching. A wide open Benedetto then hit a stupendous equalizing scissor kick that smacked off goalkeeper Kristian Nicht’s arms and into the back of the net.
Club America then tallied twice within two minutes to take a 3-1 lead. Peralta nodded home his chance after the hour-mark to give America a 2-1 lead, and Miguel Samudio then crossed a ball to Benedetto for another simple finish that all but guaranteed that Club America came out on top.
As champions of the CONCACAF region, Club America will partake in this winter’s FIFA Club World Cup in Japan.
What do you think of Club America’s 4-2 win over the Impact? What would you pin Montreal’s loss on? What does MLS need to do to see a team finally win the Champions League?
Share your thoughts below.