HARRISON, N.J. – The New York Red Bulls did not exactly have their shooting cleats on in their CONCACAF Champions League opener, but it didn't matter in the end.
Saër Sène and Lloyd Sam scored on each side of halftime to give the Red Bulls a 2-0 group stage victory over FAS at Red Bull Arena on Tuesday night. New York jumped out early through Sène’s first goal with the club, but a frustrating failure to finish kept the Salvadoran side in it until Sam put the match away with a 70th-minute strike.
The victory was the Red Bulls’ first in Champions League play and moved them to second place in Group 3, three points behind leaders Montreal Impact with a game in hand. FAS were eliminated from the competition with the result despite still having a game to play.
Sène opened the scoring in the 11th minute of a first half completely dominated by the Red Bulls, who fielded a veteran-laden starting lineup that included Tim Cahill. On the goal, Roy Miller powered a headed pass down the left flank and young midfielder Ambroise Oyongo latched onto it before whipping in a cross to an open Cahill at the far post. Cahill then played a short header to an unmarked Sène, who had enough time to slot the ball into the back of the net.
Dominating possession, New York looked set to cruise to an easy victory but were unable to beat FAS goalkeeper Adolfo Menéndez Jr. again until the second half. Cahill had a shot denied from point-blank range at the half-hour mark, Sène mis-hit a low cross that was slightly deflected four minutes later and Eric Alexander skied an open half-volley from the top of the penalty area in the 39th minute.
That failure to finish allowed the visitors to find their best chance of the game on a header from Jonathan Joya two minutes before halftime, but Red Bulls goalkeeper Ryan Meara handled it with ease.
FAS were still alive in the game but could not do much with the ball until midway through the second half, when Mike Petke’s side began to tire a bit. It was New York, however, that continued to generate the game’s best chances. Sam joined on the misfiring party, brilliantly dribbling by two defenders on the right flank before cutting onto his left foot and sending a close-range shot into the top of the first tier at Red Bull Arena.
The English midfielder would not miss again. After picking off a FAS player in the middle of the field, Péguy Luyindula slipped a ball to Sam, who fired to the near post with authority to give New York some breathing room in their quest to put the match away.
The Red Bulls will next play in a league match at Eastern Conference leaders D.C. United on Sunday (2:30 pm ET, NBCSN / NBCSports.com). New York will not play another CCL game until Sept. 17, when they visit the Montreal Impact.
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by email at Franco8813@gmail.com.