COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Steven Lenhart and Robbie Rogers scored to give the Columbus Crew a 2-0 win over the Puerto Rico Islanders in the opening game for Group C of the CONCACAF Champions League on Tuesday night.
Lenhart capitalized on a series of crisp passes inside the Islanders' penalty area that followed a long free kick by captain Guillermo Barros Schelotto. A nifty side-footed pass from Eric Brunner gave Chad Marshall time to center the ball to Lenhart, who finished from just outside the 6-yard box in the 58th minute.
"We were chasing the game from there," Islanders coach Colin Clarke said.
Rogers doubled the Columbus lead in the 79th minute, pouncing on a loose ball with a left-footed strike from six yards that Islanders goalkeeper Bill Gaudette could only watch fly into the net.
Crew coach Robert Warzycha brought striker Lenhart off the bench to start the second half in place of defender Jed Zayner in what proved a successful tactic to counter the defensive play of the Islanders, who appeared to be playing for a tie on the road.
"We knew coming into this game probably how the game was going to go," Warzycha said. "They were going to bunker in and see what happens.... The first half they did a good job of being compact."
Puerto Rico finished the first half without a shot on goal, barely clinging to a 0-0 scoreline after acrobatic saves from Gaudette and a non-call from referee Roberto Moreno on an apparent foul inside the Islanders' penalty area kept the United Soccer League team in the game.
Gaudette, a former Crew keeper who endured chants of "Columbus reject" from the announced crowd of 6,161, stymied striker Emmanuel Ekpo in the 36th minute and Alejandro Moreno less than a minute later with nearly identical diving saves.
Puerto Rico then escaped a potentially disastrous scenario seconds before halftime when defender Cristian Arrieta, who had been shown a yellow card earlier in the game for dissent, used both arms to tackle Schelotto from behind and disrupt a breakaway inside the penalty box.
A penalty call would have sent Arrieta to the locker room and Schelotto to the penalty spot, but referee Moreno allowed the game to play on.
"I thought the first half we looked comfortable," Clarke said. "Any chance they had, we gave to them, and that was true of the goals."
The teams will meet again in Puerto Rico on Oct. 20. The other two teams in Group C, Mexico's Cruz Azul and Costa Rica's Saprissa, will meet in Costa Rica Wednesday night.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press