[CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE] The Columbus Crew came back from a two-goal deficit at the half to earn a 2-2 tie with Mexico's Toluca in the first leg of their Concacaf Champions League quarterfinal series. Steven Lenharthad both goals for the Crew, which was missing Guillermo Barros SchelottoandFrankie Hejduk, andChad Marshall, who is sidelined with a hamstring injury.
Deprived of the four regulars by injuries and suspension, Columbus coach Robert Warzycha gave a start to striker Lenhart, who scored twice in the second half to erase a 2-0 deficit and provide the Crew with a 2-2 tie in its Concacaf Champions League quarterfinal, first leg against Toluca Tuesday night.
Toluca jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the 19th minute when Antonio ‘Zinha’ Naelson ran onto a ball from Issac Brizuela and took it into the penalty area before firing a shot past keeper Will Hesmer. Toluca scored a crucial second goal right before halftime; Vladimir Marin’s cross deflected off defender Eric Brunner and Antonio Rios cracked it first-time from just outside the box.
Lenhart brought Columbus back with sharp finishes on feeds from Emmanuel Ekpo and his replacement, Emilio Renteria. In the 66th minute Ekpo, working the right flank, clipped a ball inside that Lenhart smacked to the far post with a crisp side-volley. Renteria created the second goal by controlling a ball outside the box and slipping a through pass that Lenhart calmly controlled on the run with the outside of his right foot before firing it low into the net.
“Being down two goals, we just had to come out in the second half and pressure them, get after them,” Lenhart said to concacaf.com. “We didn't want to go down to Mexico down a couple of goals.”
Crew rookie Dilly Duka dressed for the match but didn’t play, and recently acquired striker Sergio Herrera also sat out the match.
Toluca nevertheless takes the cushion of two away goals into the second leg, which it will host March 17. Columbus will have Barros Schelottoand Hedjuk back from suspension; the fitness of defender Marshall (hamstring) and Zayner (knee) will be determined in the next few days.
Quarterfinal play continues Wednesday with UNAM (Mexico) hosting Marathon (Honduras), and Pachuca (Mexico) at home against Communicaciones (Guatemala). On Thursday, Arabe Unido (Panama) is home to Cruz Azul (Mexico), which lost in last year’s finals to domestic rival Atlante, 2-0, on aggregate.
March 9 in Columbus, Ohio
Columbus Crew 2 Toluca 2.Goals: Lenhart 66, 84; Zinha 19, Rios 45.
Columbus Crew --Hesmer, Iro, Padula, Brunner, Gaven, O'Rourke, Carroll, Moffat (Burns, 79), Rogers (Garey, 77), Ekpo (Renteria, 72), Lenhart.
Toluca --Talavera, Cruzalta, Gonzalez, Novaretti, Rios, Romagnoli, Galeana, Brizuela, Marin (Esquivel, 78), Zinha (de la Torre, 82), Nava,