Christian Gimenez and Armando Alonso scored 10 minutes apart in the second half as Cruz Azul and Alajuelense played to a 1-1 draw in the opening match of Group 6 in the CONCACAF Champions League on Tuesday at the Estadio Azul.
In a showdown of two of last year’s semifinalists, Gimenez broke the scoreless stalemate in the 54th minute after Canadian referee David Ganter ruled Alajuelense defender Porfirio Lopez handled the ball in the box.
Gimenez stepped to the spot and slipped low penalty kick just past goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton, who dived to his left, to give the reigning CCL champion the lead.
Ten minutes later, though, Alonso equalized for the Manudos, capitalizing on a defensive miscue.
A pair of Cruz Azul defenders failed to clear a cross by Johan Venegas from the right. Alvaro Sanchez ran onto it and sent it back in front of the goal where Alonso easily made it 1-1.
Cruz Azul pressed for the decisive goal and nearly got it in the 90th minute when Anibal Zurdo challenged Pemberton following a Gimenez corner. The Alajuelense captain, though, was able to punch it away from harm.
Two minutes later, Marco Fabian leapt high eight yards from goal, but his downward header was wide of the net.
The visitors’ best chance of the first half came in the 35th minute. Johan Venegas took a low shot toward the far post that goalkeeper Jesus Corona could only get a touch on. The ball briefly squirted loose, before Julio Dominguez cleared it from danger.
Cruz Azul returns to CCL play on August 19 at Chorrillo FC in Panama City, while Alajuelense is idle until August 28.