Despite leaving many of their regulars at home, Columbus Crew played at Santos Laguna on Tuesday, bent on turning around their previous fortunes in Mexico and looking to leave the country with a result.
But minutes before Columbus would have gotten a much-deserved point, disaster struck. Santos scored in second-half stoppage time as the Mexican club escaped with a 1-0 victory, sending the Crew back to Ohio wondering what went wrong.
Columbus did enough to leave with a point, having shut down one of Mexico's best and highest-scoring clubs this season. Instead, Santos walked away with another CONCACAF Champions League victory, their fourth in four tries.
Columbus were without such regulars as Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Chad Marshall and William Hesmer as coach Robert Warzycha opted to leave them at home. With a tough league match against FC Dallas on the slate, Warzycha likely made up his mind that focusing on that game would be more important for Columbus.
But the way the Crew played early on, perhaps Warzycha knew how to handle Santos. The match was fairly even at the start but in the 21st minute Columbus appeared to have taken the lead. Emilio Renteria crossed the ball in from the right flank and Andy Iro headed a ball into the back of the net.
However, controversy ensued. Santos' sideline protested because Renteria was wearing a jersey with no number on it. Minutes earlier, Renteria took an elbow to the face and drew blood, forcing him to come back onto the field with a bandage and a new shirt. The shirt, though, had no number and thus he should not have been allowed back into the game.
Still, the goal was no good because of the infraction and Renteria, for good matter, was booked.
Santos had a few shots towards the goal later in the half but were unable to test Crew 'keeper Andy Gruenebaum.
The deeper the match go, the more defensive of a posture Columbus took. However, that was likely forced on them by the addition of Carlos Darwin Quintero. The speedy Colombian entered the game in the 57th minute and immediately made an impact. Moments after stepping onto the field, Quintero took control of the ball inside the penalty area and narrowly missed the goal, firing an eight-yard shot past the goal.
Later, Quintero found the target and placed a hard 12-yard attempt on frame but Gruenebaum knocked it away.
Quintero saw his misfortune continue when he took a 25-yard shot on goal. Quintero got the ball past Gruenebaum but the ball skipped off the crossbar and over the goal.
But late in the game, Santos finally broke through. With Columbus dropped back defensively, trying to protect their point, Santos broke through. A cross came in from the left side of the field and bounced around before it fell to Jorge Ivan "Guti" Estrada. From about 15 yards out, Estrada buried a shot past Gruenebaum and into the back of the net.
Shortly afterward, the match ended, ensuring that Columbus would not get a draw from the game and keeping alive Mexican clubs' unbeaten record in this competition against MLS teams on Mexican soil.
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