Pachuca sealed their second straight CONCACAF club title on Wednesday night with a 2-1 win over Costa Rica's Deportivo Saprissa and a 3-2 result on aggregate. Hoisting their third continental title at the Estadio Hidalgo, Los Tuzos became the first team to qualify for this year's FIFA Club World Cup in Japan.
The Mexicans managed to hit their stride with only three minutes gone, grabbing a goal even before the Costa Rican visitors had a chance to settle into the rhythm of the game. In the first meaningful attack from the home side, Argentine striker Christian Gimenez got on the end of an elegant one-two with Colombian sensation Luis Gabriel Rey and hammered home with his right foot from 22 yards.
In the 29th minute Gimenez nearly doubled Pachuca's advantage. However, he was twice frustrated by Saprissa goalkeeper Keylor Navas.
The Costa Ricans managed to haul themselves back into the contest and were unlucky not to be on level terms before the interval. On 37 minutes, veteran forward and Costa Rican international Ronald Gomez latched onto a cross from deep, and was only denied by the sprawling figure of Miguel Calero in the Pachuca goal.
Two minutes later, Mexican international Fausto Pinto came to the home side's rescue when he cleared a fine strike from Celso Borges off the line to keep the score at 1-0 heading into the break.
Despite a brave fight from the Ticos, it didn't take the Mexicans long to double their edge in the second half. Only seven minutes in, Rey, scorer in the first leg in San Jose last week, stooped to head home from close range and effectively end the game as a contest.
Saprissa did manage to pull one back deep into stoppage time
when Jairo Arrieta slotted into an open net after a defensive
mix-up. But it was a case of too-little-too-late for the Central
Americans as Pachuca rolled on to claim the CONCACAF title for the
second year running.
"We really deserved it - we worked hard in the build-up to the match," said Gimenez after the game. " We are very happy to be heading back to Japan and we will do our best when we get there."
We did a good job to get here and worked so hard to stay together
as a team.
"We created a good amount of chances tonight," added Pinto. "We got the job done and we are all pleased with the result."
As champions of North, Central America and the Caribbean,
Pachuca now move on to the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan in December
where they will line up against some of the best club sides in the
world. The Mexicans will be hoping to improve upon the preliminary
loss they suffered this year to Tunisia's Etoile du Sahel,
which led to a surprise early exit.
The next qualifier for Japan 2008 will be known on Sunday 11 May when Kossa from the Solomon Islands attempt to hold a 3-1 lead at Waitakere United in the second leg of the OFC O-League final.