[CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE] Seconds away from advancing to the quarterfinals of the regional championship, Columbus instead will have to wait more than three weeks to know its fate. Alexander Robinson headed home a Walter Centeno free kick in the second minute of stoppage time to earn Deportivo Saprissa a 1-1 draw in a Group B match and avoid elimination. A win would have guaranteed the Crew a quarterfinal berth; instead, it must at least tie the Puerto Rico Islanders away Oct. 20 in its final group match.
The Crew led, 1-0, on a Robbie Rogers penalty kick awarded for a foul by Centeno on Guillermo Barros Schelotto. Centeno's clumsy and dangerous over-the-ball tackle studded Schelotto on the shin The foul forced Schelotto, who normally takes the penalties, to hobble off for medical attention, leaving Rogers to roll the ball inside the post as goalie Keilor Navas dived the wrong way.
Navas saved from Alejandro Moreno and Rogers, and Kendall Watson headed wide from a Centeno free kick before halftime. Emmanuel Ekpo threatened with a surging dribble and shot early in the second half but Navas blocked his shot and Ekpo headed his follow-up attempt wide.
Referee Mauricio Morales turned down Saprissa appeals for a penalty with about 15 minutes left when Crew left back Gino Padula appeared to punch the ball intentionally, and he didn't see evidence of a foul when Saprissa did equalize. Centeno's kick from the left side of midfield floated over a cluster of players to the back post, where Robinson shoved Brian Carroll in the back before nailing a downward header past Crew keeper Will Hesmer.
Columbus pushed the ball upfield and launched a couple of crosses into the goalmouth before Morales blew the final whistle.
Cruz Azul has already clinched top spot in the group. Heading into the final day of play, second-place Columbus has seven points, two more than Saprissa, which can only advance if it beats Cruz Azul at home and Columbus loses in Puerto Rico, a 2-0 loser to Cruz Azul on Tuesday. If the teams finish tied with eight points, Columbus would win the first tiebreaker, which is head-to-head results, by virtue of its 1-0 win in Costa Rica. The top two teams in each of the four groups advance to the quarterfinals.
Sept. 29 in Columbus, Ohio
Columbus 1 Saprissa 1. Goals: Rogers (pen.) 27; Robinson
Columbus - Hesmer, Hejduk, Brunner, O'Rourke, Padula, Moffat,
Carroll, Rogers, Ekpo, Schelotto (Gaven, 85), Moreno (Renteria, 85).
Saprissa - Navas, Cordero, Jiminez (Balladeres, 41), Robinson,
Nunez, Loaiza, Centeno, Alonso, Sequeira, Barrantes (Arrieta, 66),
Watson (Vargas, 71).
Referee: Mauricio Morales.