Montreal Impact - Major League Soccer’s bottom club - kicked off their CONCACAF Champions League campaign with a 1-0 win over Salvadoran outfit FAS on Tuesday night.
While their rivals were preparing for an All-Star clash with Bayern Munich, the Impact scored through Marco di Vaio in the 21st minute to seal a victory that was made unnecessarily uncomfortable by a Hassoun Camara red card.
Despite losing their previous six league matches, the Quebeckers remain unbeaten against continental opponents at Saputo Stadium with this triumph and will now hope to avoid a repeat of last term’s group-stage exit.
The Tigres won the tournament in 1979, but have enjoyed little success since and were defeated in their Primera Division season-opener against Dragon.
Nonetheless, the Santa Anans appeared unconcerned by their underdog status in the opening stages and were quick to pressure their hosts, threatening with a misdirected Lester Blanco nod.
In the 13th minute, however, Montreal should have led, as a lucky ricochet fell at the feet of Di Vaio. The Italian took his time, but opted to drill down the middle of the goal, with the ball striking Luis Contreras’ face and bouncing away to safety.
Though the 31-year-old stopper had been fortunate to repel that first effort, only some sublime goalkeeping kept the Impact at bay as they came forward again. He twice denied Andres Romero, initially saving low at the near post and then blocking with his knee.
Di Vaio header
But it wasn’t long before the Canadian champions were ahead. As the visiting backline retreated to the 18-yard box, Felipe Martins shaped a delicious cross in behind to where Di Vaio had peeled away to cushion a header across Contreras into the far corner.
Frank Klopas’ men enjoyed no luck in adding to their tally before half-time, but the goalkeeper was again required to thwart Romero within three minutes of the restart. A dangerous Dilly Duka run then deserved a better finish, before FAS managed their maiden shot on target, with Evan Bush holding from substitute Jonathan Aguila.
This first assault on the home goal was followed by Camara’s dismissal, issued for a clumsy charge on Nestor Renderos as the ball bounced in the midfield, and the Frenchman was soon joined in the stands by his manager.
Di Vaio was kept out by another Contreras stop, but the game was now being played out in front of Bush’s goal, though a wild Wandre Lefevre swipe came closest to a breach. His side survived, however, to claim all three points.
The victors will now travel to El Salvador for the return fixture later this month, wary that, as in the MLS, their away form has often been their downfall in this competition in the past.