The Red Bulls came back home to Red Bull Arena as they ended their opening round of the CONCACAF Champions League, with a three goal clean sheet victory, and a five goals to nil advantage on the aggregate to eliminate Dominican Republic side Club Atletico Pantoja.
Once again the Red Bulls faced a scrapy, annoying team in Pantoja, who tried their best to stop the Red Bulls from earning any goals, as they tried to get something on the scoresheet, but nothing came for the Caribbean Club Cup champions in Harrison.
The Red Bulls opened the scoring in the 27th minute when Sean Davis earned his second career goal in the CONCACAF Champions League. After many misses and Bradley Wright-Phillips nailing the crossbar, the Holmdel, NJ native saw a chance to get into position and convert, as he headed a clearance back towards goal and surprised everyone.
“It was a cross that was sent in and I think I, what we call fore-checking the defender, which is framing the box.” said Davis “It’s something we talked a lot about in preseason and it’s nice when it all comes together like that and I’m happy everyone here was able to witness my, probably, one and only header goal in my career so I’ll take it.”
The second goal of the first half came from the penalty spot as the Red Bulls pulled away with a two goal advantage. As the Red Bulls were attacking, Connor Lade entered the Pantoja area, then got taken down hard inside the box.
The referee blew his whistle and pointed to the spot, which meant the Daniel Royer was going to take the kick. He calmly jogged up to the ball and blasted it into the near upper 90 in the 32nd minute of the match. It was Darly Batista of Pantoja who took down Connor Lade inside the box a minute before and was booked.
With fifteen minutes remaining in the match, Andres Ivan scored his very first Red Bulls goal as he intercepted a cross and settled it down nicely. Ivan than worked with his left foot, then transferred the ball to his right,and smacked a hard shot inside the back post towards the top shelf.
“It feels very good. I’m happy about it and more importantly that we win. It was a great night.” said Ivan “I just saw the ball coming and the first touch was great after the fake shot.
“I knew that I was going to shoot straight on goal. It feels great. First goal and all the emotions and my teammates come and celebrate. It was a great moment.”
This was a fantastic performance and once again, the Red Bulls came into the game with a professional attitude, as they knew they couldn’t take this opponent lightly. Club Atletico Pantoja couldn’t match the strength and speed of the Red Bulls, and it showed very easily.
“Every round of the competition you want to move on. So we check that box. We wanted to keep building guys in their fitness and sharpness and tactically understand how we’re going about things this year and you can check that box in certain ways.” said Chris Armas “We wanted to see if we could limit their chances which was going to be speed on their counter attacks and I think we did that for the most part, which is a tough task and then we’re trying to create a lot of chances in different ways and we did that.
“We’d like to score more goals and finish up some plays but I think in terms of creating the chances in putting things on our terms, we accomplished that. So, the most important thing I think was to have the right mentality in a series like this and to start the year off with professional performances and that was impressive from the guys.”
But there is a bit of a negative to this professional performance, as Michael Murillo who earned a yellow card in the first leg down in Santo Domingo, got a second yellow card in the 49th minute, will be suspended for the first leg of the Quarterfinals next week against Santos Laguna.
But overall this was a series the Red Bulls had to win and did so handedly. They never took Pantoja lightly, and you saw on consecutive Wednesday night’s that this team while still not at full strength, was still a force to be reckoned with and now they face Liga MX side Santos Laguna.