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Montreal Impact play Deportivo Saprissa to draw in Champions League

Goals by Orji Okwonkwo and Romell Quioto give Montreal Impact advantage heading into return leg.

Montreal Impact's Orji Okwonkwo (R) and Samuel Piette (L) celebrateagainst Deportivo Saprissa during their CONCACAF Champions League match at Ricardo Saprissa Stadium in San Jose, on February 19, 2020. (Photo by JOHN DURAN/AFP via Getty Images) ** OUTS - ELSENT, FPG, CM - OUTS * NM, PH, VA if sourced by CT, LA or MoD **

The Montreal Impact took an early lead in their Concacaf Champions League round of 16 battle Wednesday night, but their opponent — Deportivo Saprissa — caught up.

Montreal was confident with a 2-0 scoreline at the half but left Costa Rica with a 2-2 draw in the first leg of their 2020 Champions League bout.

Orji Okwonkwo and Romell Quioto were the goal-scorers for Montreal while Johan Venegas and Ariel Rodriguez added the tying goals for Saprissa, a side in Costa Rica’s top division.

The Impact opened the score in the 11th minute courtesy of a Saprissa turnover. Romell Quioto intercepted a pass at the top of the box then passed to Bojan who tried his luck. A defender blocked the Spaniard’s shot but the ball fell to Orji Okwonkwo. The Nigerian took a shot and beat the goalkeeper to score Montreal’s first goal of 2020. 

Head coach Thierry Henry went with a formation featuring five defenders. Jukka Raitala, who was an uncertain case for the game, was given the start at centerback and the captain’s armband. 

Henry had to make a substitution to his five-man back-line early on. Centerback Rudy Camacho substituted off for one of the team’s newest signings, Joel Waterman, in the 17th minute.

Montreal Impact head coach Thierry Henry, right, signs soccer jerseys prior a a CONCAFAF Champions League soccer match against Costa Rica’s Deportivo Saprissa at the Ricardo Saprissa Stadium in San Jose, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Carlos Gonzalez)

Rommel Quioto opened his Impact account in the 22nd minute. Bojan sent an overhead through pass from the right end of the midfield all the way to the left corner where the Honduran rushed to the ball. Quioto cut toward the inside and took a heavy shot that stunned the Saprissa goalkeeper and gave the Impact a 2-0 lead. 

The Impact needed a second change within the first 25 minutes of play, as Henry had to substitute another injured player. This time it was Okwonkwo, who came off for Maxi Urruti. 

Saprissa came out of the locker room at halftime with a knife between their teeth, eager to even the score. The Impact sat back and tried to keep their clean sheet. 

Henry made his third substitution for an injured player at the 70th minute. Yet another goalscorer, Quioto, was stretchered off and substituted for Ballou Tabla.

Costa Rica’s Deportivo Saprissa player Manfred Ugalde (L) vies for the ball of Canada’s Montreal Impact Jukka Raitala (R) during their CONCACAF Champions League match at Ricardo Saprissa Stadium in San Jose, on February 19, 2020. (Photo by JOHN DURAN/AFP via Getty Images) ** OUTS – ELSENT, FPG, CM – OUTS * NM, PH, VA if sourced by CT, LA or MoD **

After knocking at the door for all night, Saprissa made the game a one-goal affair. At the 80th minute, Johan Venegas found himself at the other end of a cross. The former Impact and Minnesota United player headed the ball past Diop to open the score for the hosts.

Saprissa found the tying goal at the death of the match in the 90th minute. A set play created by former Vancouver Whitecaps fullback Christian Bolanos gave Ariel Rodriguez the opportunity to seal the game at 2-2.

While they leave Costa Rica with just a draw, the Impact will carry an advantage into the second leg of the Champions League battle with two away goals in their pocket.

The Impact will host the second leg on Wednesday, Feb. 26.

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