Club Leon earned a 2-1 victory at home over LAFC in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final on Wednesday.
LAFC forward Denis Bouanga scored in the 96th minute a key goal for the MLS club for the decisive second leg scheduled for Sunday night in Los Angeles.
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In a packed Estadio Leon, the hosts play for the first time in three weeks after being eliminated in the first round of the Liga MX playoffs.
Leon had to make early changes when Colombian midfielder Yairo Moreno suffered an injury in the eighth minute, forcing a substitution that brought in Elias Hernandez. Seconds later and following a corner from winger Angel Mena, Leon brushed away any worries with a well-placed header and goal from defender William Tesillo.
Led by the high-pressing tactics of manager Nicolas Larcamon, Leon did an excellent job throughout the first half by containing the visiting opposition in their own end of the pitch.
During injury time and shortly before the break, Los Panzas Verdes were later given an opportunity to extend their lead after a handball in the 18-yard box from LAFC defender Ryan Hollingshead. Confirmed as a penalty after a review from VAR, Leon’s Angel Mena then made it 2-0 in the 50th minute after scoring from the spot.
After halftime, LAFC began to gain much-needed momentum.
Stealing more of the possession, the MLS side tested Leon’s backline that started to collect blocked shots and interceptions.
Leon did well to halt most of what LAFC’s attacking players were throwing at them in the second half, but just seconds before the end of the match, the visitors earned a valuable last-minute goal from Bouanga. Connecting with a cross from substitute Mateusz Bogusz, Bouanga slotted the ball into the back of Leon’s net, thereby keeping LAFC very much alive in the series.
Moments later, the final whistle blew, giving Leon a bittersweet 2-1 win.
On Sunday, LAFC will host the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League at BMO Stadium. Neither team has ever won this competition.
The away-goals rule, utilized in each round of the competition, is not being used in the final. If the aggregate score is level after 90 minutes on Sunday, the teams will play 30 minutes of extra time, then go to penalty kicks if necessary.
In the previous 2022 edition, the Seattle Sounders became the first MLS club to win the CONCACAF tournament since the beginning of the “Champions League” era in 2008 and the team that ended a 13-title streak for Liga MX clubs.
Information from Reuters was used in this report.