The Brazilian-born former natio-nal midfielder created the equalising strike for St Lucian striker Earl Jean in the 79th, following Omar Bravo’s item in the 61st, and then scored the winner in the 87th as the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) champs enter the second leg on February 28 with the slim one-goal advantage.
The win was special since Connection played the majority of the match with ten players due to the expulsion of Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams in the 21st minute after handling the ball outside his penalty area. Under pressure from striker Sergio Santana, Williams tried in vain to make a sliding clearance from a weak back-pass from national Under-20 fullback Devon Drayton.
That moment proved to be pivotal as Connection’s coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier was forced to replace striker Dwight Scott with reserve goalie Kerwin Beckles, who was immediately called into action to stop Ramon Morales’ 20-metre freekick.
The remaining of the first half saw Connection’s players retreating to defence to stop the rampaging Guadalajara attacks, which featured numerous “dummies” and continuous raids on both flanks.
In one such move, in the 43rd, Alberto Medina (who came on a minute earlier for Antonio Patlan) found Santana who dummied the ball to Bravo, but the return pass to Medina was chipped overbar.
The Guadalajara squad indulged in a bombardment of long-range shots early in the second half, with captain Morales’ 30-metre left-footer sailing overbar in the 52nd, Santana’s header held by Beckles in the 53rd and Medina’s blast from 25 metres was cleared for a corner in the 56th. Eventually, the pressure paid off in the 61st as Bravo sneaked behind the Connection defence to head home a pin-point left-sided centre from Morales.
It seemed like the start of a goalscoring frenzy for the Mexi-cans, but Charles-Fevrier, midway into the second half, brought on Seabra and striker Andre Toussaint, who were both recovering from injuries, in expense of the tiring wingers Andrei Pacheco and Hughton Hector.
Even with those changes the crowd, estimated at 4,000, were mainly resigned to a Connection defeat before the ineffective Gefferson Goulart, Seabra and Jean, their most experienced trio, combined for the equaliser. After Goulart’s corner was cleared twice by the Guadalajara defenders, his third effort found Goulart who skipped past two challenges and sent a cross to Jean who rose above keeper Ernesto Michel and headed into the open net.
The Guadalajara technical staff, led by Jose Manuel De La Torre, were stunned into silence while their players were visibly frantic, both in attack and defence.
And their anxiety, and their worse fears of a Connection comeback triumph, were confirmed three minutes from time when a slow, methodical counter-attack led by Toussaint, who collided with Diego Martinez, saw the ball reaching to an unmarked Seabra who drilled his low left-footer beyond the outstretched hands of Michel.
W CONNECTION: Jan-Michael Williams; Elijah Joseph, Devon Drayton, William Oliveira, Nickcolson Thomas; Christian Viveros, Andrei Pacheco (Jose Luis Seabra 60th), Hughton Hector (Andre Toussaint 65th), Gefferson Goulart; Dwight Scott (Kerwin Beckles 23rd), Earl Jean (capt).
CD GUADALAJARA: Ernesto Michel; Roberto Rivera (Gonzalo Pineda 70th), Hector Reynoso, Jonny Magallon; Arturo Ledezma, Antonio Patlan (Alberto Medina 42nd), Ramon Morales (capt), Manoel Sol, Diego Martinez; Omar Bravo, Sergio Santana.