Hernandez on Target as Columbus Down Monterrey in Champions Cup Semi

Columbus forward Cucho Hernandez dribbles past Monterrey's Jesus Gallardo in their CONCACAF Champions Cup semi-final. Jason Mowry / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP
Columbus forward Cucho Hernandez dribbles past Monterrey's Jesus Gallardo in their CONCACAF Champions Cup semi-final. Jason Mowry / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP
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Hernandez on Target as Columbus Down Monterrey in Champions Cup Semi

Columbus forward Cucho Hernandez dribbles past Monterrey's Jesus Gallardo in their CONCACAF Champions Cup semi-final. Jason Mowry / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP
Columbus forward Cucho Hernandez dribbles past Monterrey's Jesus Gallardo in their CONCACAF Champions Cup semi-final. Jason Mowry / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP

Cucho Hernandez was on target as Columbus Crew defeated Mexico's Monterrey 2-1 in their CONCACAF Champions Cup semi-final first leg clash in Ohio on Wednesday.
Colombian forward Hernandez delivered a sparkling performance capped with a well-taken first-half goal to help Columbus take a slender advantage into next week's return in Mexico, said AFP.
Jacen Russell-Rowe headed home the winner for Columbus from a corner on 72 minutes after Maximiliano Meza had leveled for Monterrey just after half-time.
The Major League Soccer champions -- who produced a stunning upset of Mexican side Tigres in the quarter-finals -- once again proved to be more than a match for Liga-MX opposition.
Monterrey started brightly and could have taken the lead through US international forward Brandon Vazquez, whose snap shot from six yards out was well-saved by Crew goalkeeper Patrick Schulte after six minutes.
But after that early scare, Columbus dominated for long periods, with Hernandez at the heart of most of their attacks at Lower Field.
The Colombian almost set up an opener for Diego Rossi on 17 minutes, but the Uruguayan directed his attempted finish just wide of the post.
Moments later Hernandez saw a vicious shot well-saved by Monterrey goalkeeper Esteban Andrada.
Columbus's pressure paid off after 26 minutes though, with Hernandez working a one-two with Russell-Rowe on the edge of the area and finishing crisply past Andrada for 1-0.
Hernandez almost doubled the Crew lead on the stroke of half-time, but was once again denied by Andrada as the besieged Monterrey goalkeeper beat away a superb shot.
Columbus were rocked on 58 minutes though when Monterrey equalized. Jesus Gallardo ghosted past Sean Zawadzki far too easily down the left and crossed for Meza who jabbed in the finish.
But Zawadzki made amends on 72 minutes, delivering the corner which picked out Russell-Rowe at the far post whose header bounced up and into the net past Andrada.
The second leg takes place in Monterrey next Wednesday.



Albania Scores After 23 Seconds for Quickest Ever Goal at the European Championship

Bajrami became just the second Albanian to score at a European Championship, after Armando Sadiku in 2016. - The AP
Bajrami became just the second Albanian to score at a European Championship, after Armando Sadiku in 2016. - The AP
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Albania Scores After 23 Seconds for Quickest Ever Goal at the European Championship

Bajrami became just the second Albanian to score at a European Championship, after Armando Sadiku in 2016. - The AP
Bajrami became just the second Albanian to score at a European Championship, after Armando Sadiku in 2016. - The AP

It took 23 seconds for Albania to leave a record-breaking mark on the European Championship.

Nedim Bajrami scored the fastest goal in the tournament's 64-year history when he pounced on an errant throw-in by Italy left back Federico Dimarco, took a touch, then smashed a rising shot inside the near post in Dortmund on Saturday.

It usurped the previous quickest goal at the Euros, scored by Dmitri Kirichenko of Russia after 67 seconds against Greece in 2004.

Albania wound up losing 2-1 in its opening match in Group B but fans of this tiny Western Balkan nation will always remember that moment they briefly shocked the defending champions.

Even if, as it transpired, it jolted Italy into action.

“We took it as a positive shock to the system,” Italy winger Federico Chiesa said. “It gave us flashbacks of the final in Euro 2020 when we immediately fell behind.”

According to The AP, on that occasion, the Italians bounced back to draw 1-1 with England and win the penalty shootout, and they showed similar character against Albania in a match that felt like it was being staged in Tirana.

The sight of the sea of Albanian red that filled Westfalenstadion blew away Sylvinho, the team's Brazil-born coach.

“We knew the entire stadium would be red,” he said, “but outside I saw so many Albanians proud to be here at the European Championship.”

Indeed, the former Barcelona and Arsenal defender said his players might have struggled to cope with the intensity of the occasion, given Albania has only ever played in one major tournament previously, Euro 2016.

“Once you are used to playing in this kind of competition, it gets easy,” Sylvinho said. "Take my case, I was used to playing in the Champions League when I was a player. I knew what to expect in nights when we played Real Madrid, Milan, Juventus.

“When you are not used to playing in this kind of competition, you have no idea what you are expected to play. The first one was going to be difficult. Now there will be no problems with the emotions involved.”

Bajrami became just the second Albanian to score at a European Championship, after Armando Sadiku in 2016.