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Atlante returns home with two-goal lead
by Ridge Mahoney, April 23rd, 2009 7AM

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[CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE] Sometimes teams can shake off their bad form in league play to handle international competition, and sometimes they can't no matter who they play.

Cruz Azul, lurching through a seven-game winless streak in league play, continued that bad run Wednesday in the Concacaf Champions' League first leg despite hosting Mexican rival Atlante. The Cancun club scored twice in the first half, and those goals by Fernando Navarro and Christian Bermudez lasted until the final whistle.

Both goals at Esadio Azul were set up by Rafael Marquez Lugo, whose injury-time penalty kick provided the goal by which Atlante dispatched another Mexican team, Santos Laguna, by a 4-3 aggregate in the quarterfinals.

Atlante's league form isn't much better - it has gone five straight games without a win - yet it stunned Cruz Azul in the 17th and 24th minutes to take a 2-0 lead on aggregate and away goals into the second leg at Estadio Quintana Roo in Cancun next Wednesday.

In the 18-team Mexican League, both teams are far off the playoff pace and sit near the bottom of the standings.

Atlante is in 15th place, one spot ahead of Cruz Azul. Missing the suspended Gerardo Torrado and Cristian Riveros, Cruz Azul lacked both the steel to withstand Atlante's early attacks and enough creative insight to come back once it had fallen behind.

Navarro and Marquez Lugo broke through in the 17th minute following a pair of decent chances generated by Atlante. A swap of passes sent Navarro in alone on keeper Alfonso Blanco, who could do nothing but watch as the ball flew past him.

Seven minutes later Marquez Lugo sailed down the left flank into space to hit a low cross across the goalmouth that Luis Rey let run for Bermudez to bang into the open net.

Cruz Azul manager Benjamin Galindo brought on Hector Gutierrez after the second goal, and a revived offense produced a long-distance shot by Pablo Zeballos and a narrowly wide volley from Alejandro Vela late in the first half. It retained some momentum in the second half but a lineup stacked with attackers, despite chances for Cesar Villaluz, Luis Landin and Javier Orozco, couldn't reduce the deficit.

Unless Cruz Azul can prevail by at least two goals in the second leg, Atlante will win its second confederation title in 26 years.

Away goals scored in regulation are the first tiebreaker in case the teams end the second leg tied on aggregate. If regulation time in the second leg ends with Cruz Azul ahead, 2-0, the teams will play overtime.|Any other scoreline after 90 minutes will win the title for one of the teams.

Atlante, which knocked out the last remaining MLS team, the Houston Dynamo, in the quarterfinals is on course to its Concacaf title since 1983 and a place in the 2009 Club World Cup.

The Atlante-Cruz Azul final is the third all-Mexican CONCACAF club championship final in the last four years.

 



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