Impact tie Atlante in Champions League
The Montreal Impact earned a scoreless draw with Atlante FC with a stifling defensive effort in the group stage of the inaugural CONCACAF Champions League on Wednesday night.
"We had a game plan and we executed it to perfection," Impact midfielder Sandro Grande said. "We did a heck of a job."
"It was an excellent performance," Impact midfielder Mauro Biello told CBC Sports. "We were able to defend well against an excellent Mexican team."
Atlante is one of the premier sides from Mexico, winning the CONCACAF Champions Cup, the forerunner to Champions League, in 1983, and placing second in 1994.
But the heavily favoured Mexicans failed to solve Impact goalkeeper Matt Jordan, who posted his fourth consecutive Champions League shutout before a crowd of 12,187 at Saputo Stadium.
"I don't think they took one good shot at Matt Jordan," Impact coach John Limniatis said.
"A half-shot, maybe," Grande said, referring to Atlante midfielder Fernando Navarro's weak attempt from the edge of the box in the 35th minute.
The Impact held a 5-2 edge in shots on goal, and is tied atop Group C with Atlante at four points (1-0-1).
"We had the better chances," Limniatis said. "But what we lacked was a bit of belief that we could score."
"We're riding high, we have a lot of confidence right now," Biello said. "They have a lot of skillful players, players that hurt you if you make mistakes."
Atlante coach Jose Guadelupe told reporters afterward that, with the exception of keeper Federico Villar, he fielded a second-string squad because several of the first-stringers had played a league match last Sunday.
But he was quick to praise Montreal's feisty defence.
"We faced a team with a lot of order on defence," Guadelupe said. "They're a good team, that's why we had trouble scoring."
Montreal's lone lineup change had midfielder David Testo return from suspension to replace Simon Gatti.
Testo and Grande were carded in the match, as was Impact striker Peter Byers, who tried to open the scoring on a header that bounced into the waiting arms of Villar in the 19th minute.
Grande later bent a free kick into the box, where Stefano Pesoli headed it off Villar's right shoulder.
Villar vaulted high into the air to punch Tony Donatelli's dangerous blast over the crossbar in the 37th minute, and later caught a break when Impact striker Joey Gjertsen sidestepped a defender and fired just wide of the post in the 44th.
Byers had a glorious chance to break the deadlock in the 53rd, retrieving the ball behind the Atlante defence, but he lifted it over the bar and out of play.
"Maybe if we were a little bit sharper, we could have won the game," Biello said. "We had our chances to score."
Montreal kicked off the group stage last Wednesday, blanking Joe Public of Trinidad and Tobago 2-0 at Saputo Stadium on tallies by Pesoli and Donatelli.
Atlante, meantime, shut out CD Olimpia of Honduras 1-0 in their opener at Cancun, Mexico.
Olimpia, which beat Joe Public 3-1 on Wednesday night, will host the Impact on Oct. 1 (CBC bold, CBCsports.ca, 10 p.m. ET).
Pair of impressive shutouts
Montreal posted a pair of impressive shutouts in qualifying for the group stage.
The Impact held Nicaraguan champion Real Esteli FC to a 0-0 draw in the second leg of their preliminary round playoff at Carlos Miranda Stadium in Comayagua, Honduras, on Sept. 2.
That result, coupled with a 1-0 triumph in the first leg at Montreal's Saputo Stadium, was enough for the Impact to qualify for the group stage on aggregate.
The championship round, featuring the two top teams from each of the four groups, commences next Feb. 24.
"Maybe we can bring soccer to Canada in February for the first time ever and play in the snow," Grande said.
The Impact won the right to represent Canada in the Champions League with impressive showings in a national tournament with Toronto FC of Major League Soccer and United Soccer Leagues rival Vancouver Whitecaps.
With files from the Canadian Press