TORONTO – Santos Laguna finished with a flourish, scoring twice in the final minutes to defeat Toronto FC 3-1 in CONCACAF Champions League action on Tuesday night at BMO Field.
With the victory, Santos are now alone in first place in Group 1 on six points with two group matches remaining. Toronto are 1-1-0 and face an uphill climb having already played both of their home games.
Just when it appeared that the teams might draw 1-1, Daniel Ludueña scored in the 90th minute from a difficult angle to give Santos a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. In fact, they built on it, as Candido Ramirez clinched all three points with a goal from a similar position in stoppage time.
The game’s first two goals were scored by second-half substitutes. Darwin Quintero opened the scoring early in the second half with a powerful, tight-angle finish in the 49th minute. Quincy Amarikwa answered for the home side 20 minutes later.
Toronto started strong in the match’s open minutes, putting pressure on the ball, but it didn’t take Santos long to take control of the pace of the game.
Freddy Hall, starting his third consecutive game in goal for the Reds, was forced into action after 13 minutes, stretching to make a save on a shot from outside the penalty area by Ludueña.
Oribe Peralta, who troubled Toronto during the early minutes, should have opened the scoring 11 minutes later when he missed an unmarked sitter in front of the net after a cross from Edgar Lugo. Not to be outdone, Toronto answered a minute later with their best chance of the first half when Andrew Wiedeman whistled a shot just wide.
In the final 10 minutes of the half, Toronto began to control the ball became more patient in their buildup play. They came close to being rewarded in the 38th minute, but Eric Hassli failed to direct his header on frame after a cross from Jeremy Hall.
Each team made a change at the half. Amarikwa replaced Hassli and Lugo gave way to Quintero, who made the change look a stroke of genius, scoring just four minutes into his shift by rifling home a shot from the right side of the box after being set up by Marc Crosas.
But just minutes after Santos scored, Amarikwa had the equalizer staring him in the face after Wiedeman’s low cross to the back post found him with the goal gaping. Unfortunately for Toronto, his point-blank shot hit the post.
Amarikwa eventually made up for that gaffe in the 68th minute. After Torsten Frings’ curling free kick into the box bounced high among a group of players in front of the goal, it came back to Amarikwa, who found the bottom corner through a crowd of players.
It wasn’t enough in the end, though, as two defensive breakdowns in the final minutes gave Santos a critical road result in their quest to return to the CCL finals.
Toronto’s next game is in league play at Sporting Kansas City on Saturday.