Alajuelense kept their hopes of edging out Tigres and advancing to the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals with a 1-0 win over Real Esteli on Tuesday in Nicaragua. Allen Guevara scored in the 42nd minute to earn the visitors a 1-0 win that moves Alajuelense alongside Tigres atop Group 6.
There was no doubt who was the better side right from the beginning. Alajuelense poured the pressure on Esteli, controlling possession, having a goal disallowed and hitting the bar. For more than a half-hour, it appeared as if Esteli had sold its soul to the soccer gods.
Finally in the 42nd minute, Alajuelense got the goal they so deserved. Cristopher Meneses whipped a cross to the top of the six-yard box, where Guevara was able to get inside of his marker and nod past Justo Lorente.
Esteli only really got forward once in the first half, but they almost made it count. Juan Barrera scored and seemingly put the home side in front after 33 minutes, but the goal was ruled off for offside and the match stayed level until Guevara got involved.
The second half was a little better for Esteli, who had a little bit more of the ball. Alajuelense was still the better side. They forced Lorente into a few fine saves and had another chance cleared off of the line, but they couldn't break through for a second goal.
Alajuelense's inability to turn their dominance into a multi-goal margin almost bit them in the waning moments when Esteli got their best chance of the match. Norfran Lazo got in behind the defense and looked like a good bet to equalize, but Dexter Lewis made a good save and held onto all three points for the visitors.
Tigres remain the favorite to advance from Group 6 with the second match between them and Alajuelense set for Mexico, but at least the Costa Ricans are still in it. They are on four points, just like Tigres, while Esteli languish at the bottom of the table on zero poitns.