The Impact de Montreal scored two first-half goals to earn a 2-0 win over visiting Alajuelense in the first leg of their Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League (SCCL) semifinal series on Wednesday.
A crowd of 33,675 at the Stade Olympique saw the host take a step closer to next month’s two-legged final thanks to strikes by Ignacio Piatti and Victor Cabrera within the opening 15 minutes.
The result extended the Impact’s SCCL unbeaten streak to eight consecutive games, a new team record.
Montreal took a 1-0 lead in the 10th minute with an exquisite finish. A right-sided cross along the ground by Dominic Oduro was cleverly backheeled by Cameron Porter in the box to Piatti. The Argentinean, who has Copa Libertadores experience with San Lorenzo, took a touch with his right foot, before firing home with his left from seven-yards out.
Piatti nearly got on the scoreboard again in the 13th minute. The outstanding 30-year-old received a pass down the left side from Danny Toia and weaved his way into the Alajuelense box, forcing goalkeeper Dexter Lewis into a tremendous save at the near post.
One minute later, the Impact netted its second with a fortunate bounce. Marco Donadel swung a left-sided corner kick off the right knee of Bakary Soumare. The ball fell into the path of Cabrera, who swept it in with his right foot from nine yards.
The Impact kept pushing forward and created two more opportunities, which Piatti and Oduro both sent over the crossbar in the 17th and 24th minutes, respectively.
The second half did not produce nearly as much action, but Venegas had Alajuelense’s best chance of the game in the 51st minute. Bidding to score in his third straight SCCL game, the 25-year-old attacker bounced a right-footed effort from distance that required a diving stop from goalkeeper Evan Bush.
Porter was exceptional throughout the match and could have heaped even more pressure on the Manudos, but his attempt in the second minute of stoppage time was palmed away by Lewis.
Alajuelense, which fell at the semifinal stage last year to Mexico’s Toluca, will host the return leg on April 7.