Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA may have gone to the “well” for a second successive season, but are still to taste an elusive first drink of CONCACAF Champions League success.
The latest attempt to sip success at the region’s highest level of club football ended in a 3-0 home defeat to Guatemala’s Comunicaciones on Thursday night at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, leaving the local team rock bottom and without a point in Group Six.
Midfielder Paolo Rodolfo Suárez, the 33-year-old elder brother of Liverpool star Luis Suarez, netted a hat-trick to give Comunicaciones their first three points in the competition this season. He scored in the 10th minute with a low shot to the far corner after cutting inside on the left. Suárez then netted two more in the second half, first in the 61st with a lofted shot from distance to the corner, and then the third three minutes into added-on-time when he rolled the ball low into an unprotected net whilst Caledonia goalkeeper Glenroy Samuel lay injured on the turf after punting a goal kick.
Comunicaciones forward Jean Márquez also had a penalty saved in the 48th minute by Samuel, after Honduran referee Erick Medina pointed to the spot when the combination of defenders Kareem “Tiny” Joseph and centre-back Nuru Muhammed stopped Suárez’s meandering penalty box drive. Diving, Samuel stopped the penalty, and Márquez put the rebound onto a post.
It was a fifth overall loss in six Champions League outings for the 2012 Caribbean champions. Caledonia’s lone point gained in two Champion League seasons, came from a 0-0 draw against Honduran club Marathon in 2012. Conceding Suárez’s early goal did not help on Thursday night, with the T&T Pro League runners-up AIA needing to win, after already losing 3-1 this season to unbeaten group leaders Toluca (six points) in Mexico. Toluca also edged Comunicaciones (three points) by a 2-1 margin in Guatemala.
“I thought we held our own and the scoreline does not reflect truly what happened in the game,” Caledonia head coach Jamaal Shabazz said. “We were made to pay dearly for some simple errors. It shows we have to get accustomed to (the) CONCACAF level since the margin for error is very slim.”
With half the preliminary schedule halfway done, Caledonia now have only the slightest mathematical chance of advancing out of the group, providing they win their two remaining return matches, and Toluca also generously contribute by losing twice. Neither scenario seems realistic given recent track records.
“If this was a national team I would be devastated,”Shabazz declared. “But the remaining two matches provide a great opportunity for us to expose ourselves to CONCACAF level. We in no way feel the world has ended.
Home team Caledonia did themselves few favours at the HCS by wasting several chances.
Noel Williams failed to net an early chance, and on the half hour, lanky striker Jamal Gay’s downward header from Keyon Edwards’ lofted cross was marginally wide. It was a clear chance to equalise.
Gay also just went wide with a shot from atop the penalty box. Shabazz believes those misses cost Caledonia the match.
Comunicaciones almost immediately punished them when, with his team already ahead, Uruguayan forward Carlos Ramirez also put a downward header just wide from close up in the 36th minute after latching onto a swinging cross from the right-back Carlos Figueroa.
Except for Joseph shooting into the Comunicaciones side-netting, the second half was more productive for the visitors who pulled away despite Marquez’s penalty-kick miss. It ended with still no satisfaction for Caledonia.