CARSON, Calif. (AP) Samuel scored in the 11th minute and the Los Angeles Galaxy held off Club Tijuana’s frantic late push for a 1-0 victory Wednesday night in the first leg of a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series.
Samuel tallied after Marcelo Sarvas’ chip into the Club Tijuana box caromed to him off Galaxy captain Robbie Keane’s midsection, and goalkeeper Jamie Penedo and midfielder Sarvas made big stops in the second half of the first game of the two-match, total-goals series that will resume Tuesday in Tijuana.
”Obviously, another goal would have benefited our team,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. ”It’s still nice going there with an advantage, not giving up a road goal is important, and we’re well aware of the fact that Tuesday will be a difficult game, but we’re ready for it.”
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The Galaxy need only a draw or a one-goal loss in Tuesday’s second leg to advance to a semifinal next month against Sporting Kansas City or Mexico City-based Cruz Azul. A 1-0 Tijuana win would force overtime.
”I think we should have had a little more fortune (in the second half),” Tijuana manager Cesar Farias said. ”Now we’re going home, where we’re strong. This is not an ideal result for us, but it’s not a bad result. And I think we can overturn this result in Tijuana.”
Samuel, a Brazilian forward acquired on loan in January from Fluminense, netted his first goal with the Galaxy, pouncing when Keane couldn’t bring down the ball and it bounced past defender Javier Gandolfi.
”(Samuel) is very opportunistic around the goal,” Arena said. ”We’ve seen it in preseason, and tonight a similar kind of goal. He’s got a good nose for the goal.”
Tijuana came closest to scoring in the 61st minute, when Penedo scrambled to knock away a ball rolling toward his net after he misplayed a cross that bounced off Galaxy backline leader Omar Gonzalez, and in the 68th, when Sarvas deflected Gandolfi’s header at the right post.
Herculez Gomez, a U.S. national team forward who played from 2002 to 2006 with the Galaxy, almost tied the score in the 85th minute, but his diving header from fellow American Greg Garza’s cross sailed just wide of the left post.
Penedo turned away a long drive from Dario Benedetto in stoppage time to end Tijuana’s chances.