[CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE] Columbus packed enough Guillermo Barros Schelotto to test Toluca, but ultimately, los Diablos Rojos had too much "Zinha." Toluca rallied from a 1-0 deficit to beat Columbus, 3-2, Wednesday night in the home leg of their Concacaf Champions League quarterfinal series and prevail, 5-4, on aggregate.
A penalty kick by Hector Mancila and two superb free kicks by Antonio “Zinha” Naelson canceled out a pair of goals by Schelotto, who sat out the first leg through suspension and in this match led a valiant Crew effort.
Schelotto gave the Crew its first lead by converting a penalty kick in first-half stoppage time. After Mancila put away a penalty of his own shortly after halftime and Naelson drove in a free kick off the underside of the crossbar, he scored again in the 70th minute to re-tie the game, 2-2. But two minutes later, Naelson struck again with a right-footer that gave Crew keeper Will Hesmer no chance.
Its victory propels Toluca into the semifinals against Mexican league rival Pachuca, which beat Comunicaciones 2-1 on Tuesday. On the other side of the ledger, the consecutive games an MLS team has failed to win a competitive match in Mexico is now 20.
Toluca took command of the game early but failed to score in the first half. An Isaac Brizuela shot hit the crossbar and an attempt by Mancilla came off the underside of the bar and rebounded down onto the goal line without crossing it completely.
Columbus went ahead when Schelotto and Eddie Gaven pierced the Toluca back line; a return pass to Gaven hit the arm of Toluca defender Edgar Duenas in the penalty area and referee Paul Ward signaled for a penalty kick, which Schelotto drove home.
A foul by Gaven on Naelson in the second minute of the second half provided the penalty kick that Mancilla put away, and 10 minutes later Naelson curled a free kick from the left side over Hesmer toward the near post. It glanced off the bottom of the crossbar and landed over the goal line for a 2-1 Toluca lead.
Schelotto revived Columbus' hopes in the 70th minute, capitalizing on a rebound after Steven Lenhart, scorer of two goals in the first leg, reached Danny O’Rourke’s cross to the far post and fired a shot that hit the upright. It rebounded into the middle for Schelotto to knock into the net.
Toluca came down the field again and won another free kick on the left. This time, Naelson bent it to the far top corner for a 3-2 Toluca lead and 5-4 edge on aggregate. The Crew, mindful that another goal and 3-3 away tie would be enough to advance it on the away-goals tiebreaker, brought on substitutes Emmanuel Ekpo and Emilio Renteria to revive its attack, but a second caution to Lenhart in the 80th minute left them a man short for the rest of the match.
Toluca hit the woodwork yet again in the final minutes on a swerving shot by Nestor Calderon and despite four minutes of stoppage time the Crew could not muster up one more goal.
March 17 in Toluca
Toluca 3, Columbus 2.
Goals: Mancila (penalty kick) 47, Naelson 57, 72; Schelotto (penalty kick) 45, 70.
(Toluca wins 5-4 on aggregate).
Toluca – Talavera; Duenas, Gonzalez, Romagnoli, Novaretti, Rios, Naelson (Perez, 90), Mancila, Calderon, Nava (M. De La Torre, 81), Brizuela (Esquivel, 66).
Columbus – Hesmer; Hejduk (Garey, 85), Iro, Brunner, O’Rourke, Gaven (Renteria, 75), Carroll, Moffat, Rogers (Ekpo, 77), Schelotto, Lenhart.