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New York Red Bulls cruise to 3-0 win over Pantoja, advance to CCL quarterfinals

HARRISON, N.J. — Sean Davis and Danny Royer struck for first-half goals and Andreas Ivan added an insurance goal in the second half to help lift the New York Red Bulls to a 3-0 win over Atletico Pantoja in the second leg of the Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 Wednesday night at a chilly Red Bull Arena.

The Red Bulls advanced 5-0 on aggregate and will take on Santos Laguna in the two-legged quarterfinals beginning next week.

“When we look back at this series, we’ll be proud of it because it was a professional performance from start to finish,” Davis said. “We knew what these games would look like. I think our experience in this competition helps out a lot.”

Two minutes after Bradley Wright-Phillips hammered a shot off the crossbar, Davis gave the Red Bulls a 1-0 lead on a return-to-sender header from 17 yards out, latching onto an attempted headed clearance. Davis, who said he was forechecking the defender, was perfectly situated along the edge of the 18-yard box.

“It’s something we talked a lot about in the preseason,” Davis said. “It’s nice when it all comes together like that. I’m happy everyone here is able to witness my probably one and only header goal of my career. I’ll take it.”

New York doubled its lead five minutes later on a Royer penalty kick after Connor Lade was tripped by Darly Batista in the box.

Royer nearly had his second goal in the 60th minute, receiving a pass from Kaku and cleverly turning into the box. But the Austrian winger’s shot kissed the far post.

“I think it was a good performance,” Royer said. “We got the clean sheet again, scoring three goals. We could have scored way more goals, but overall I think we did a good job. We had a couple of giveaways that were unnecessary, but it’s the beginning of the season and I think overall we did a great job.”

Ivan capped the scoring in the 75th minute, intercepting an attempted clearance, faking first with his left and firing past Pantoja goalkeeper Pascual Ramirez with his right foot.

“It feels really good, I’m happy about it and more important that we also win,” Ivan said. “Yeah, it was a great night.”

The only negative for the hosts came four minutes after halftime when Michael Amir Murillo was booked, resulting in a one-match suspension for the Panamanian right back.

Leading up to the game, Red Bulls coach Chris Armas warned his team about needless yellow cards in a competition where suspensions can come thick and fast. His plan was also to take Murillo off early in the second half. He did make the change just before the hour-mark, but by then the damage was already done.

“Obviously I’m happy about the win, but I’m a little bit upset about the yellow card because I didn’t feel like it was a foul,” Murillo said through a translator. “We have a good group, we have a lot of depth on this team and I’m confident in the group to pull it out, but I wish I was out there.”

Now the focus can shift to Santos, which crushed Marathon, 5-0, in Torreon Wednesday night for an 11-2 aggregate victory. The Liga MX juggernaut comes to Red Bull Arena next Tuesday for the opening leg.

“We obviously know they’re a strong team, they’re having a good start to their season down in Mexico,” Davis said. “These are the kind of games every player wants to play in. We’re all really excited for that. We all want to put our best foot forward, have a really strong series and advance.”

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