Black cat curses Toronto FC

Santos Laguna's Daniel Luduena beats Toronto FC defender Richard Eckersley and goalkeeper Freddy...

Santos Laguna's Daniel Luduena beats Toronto FC defender Richard Eckersley and goalkeeper Freddy Hall for game-winning goal at BMO Field in Toronto, Ont., Aug. 28, 2012. (CRAIG ROBERTSON/QMI Agency)

KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:31 AM ET

TORONTO - Santos trash-talker Herculez Gomez was asked about the black cat that went tearing across BMO Field in the second half.

“For TFC,” he responded, when asked if it was bad luck.

While Toronto FC matched the Mexican Clausura winners for most of Tuesday’s decisive Champions League match, after clawing back from a goal down, the Reds crumbled at the death.

“There’s no way that was a 3-1 game,” Mariner said of the two goals the Reds conceded after the 89th minute. “If you do keep making the same error then that’s a massive problem.”

He pointed the finger.

“I don’t like people diving in,” Mariner said, before identifying his captain as the main culprit on Daniel Luduena’s winner.

After Quincy Amerikwa’s equalizer in the 68th minute cancelled Carlos Quintero’s opener coming out of halftime, the Reds looked like they’d be the ones pushing for a winner.

Instead, it was the composure and class of last year’s Champions League finalists that eventually broke the game open, leaving Toronto in disbelief and almost certainly sending the Reds out of the competition.

In the 89th minute, lazy defending — first from Torsten Frings and then from an over-committed Jeremy Hall — provided Luduena the opening he needed on the left side of the penalty area. The Argentine forward strolled into the box after collecting a pass from Oribe Peralta and unleashing a left-footed effort that beat Freddy Hall.

While difficult, the would-be 2-1 result would have kept the Reds in the competition. Two minutes later, it was curtains.

In a near mirror-image of the game-winner, Candido Ramirez walked into left side of the area and finished to the far post past a helpless Hall, who made a handful of key saves leading up to the collapse.

“It’s annoying and frustrating,” Mariner said. “At 2-1 it’s not a done deal. Even though in probably 99% of peoples’ minds it was, at 2-1 you can still get something. They were panicking and smashing (the ball) out. I just wanted us to play the same way we played for 89 minutes.”

Helped on by the blustery Lake Ontario conditions, Santos came close in the 13th minute when Luduena completed a one-two at the top of the box before attempting a curling effort that forced Hall to make an acrobatic save.

Santos looked sure to grab the game’s opener on 24 minutes after Edgar Lugo collected a poor clearance from Morgan on the right side of the box. With Hall out to play what he presumed would be a shot by Lugo, Peralta fanned on his open-goal look — a sequence that gave supporters the belief that maybe it was TFC’s time to steal a result.

“I thought we were a little tentative in the first half,” Mariner said. “I thought second half we were much better.”

With Toronto flying out of the break, the game’s opener arguably came against the run of play when Carlos Quintero was played in behind TFC’s back four. Collecting a pass from Marc Crosas, the Colombian international buried a half-volley to put the Los Guerreros in front.

The Reds should have equalized in the 52nd minute only to see second-half replacement Quincy Amerikwa one-up Peralta’s first-half miss. After a brief build up, Andrew Weideman rolled an effort across goal to Amerikwa, who scuffed his wide-open effort off the back post and out.

“Quincy came in and kind of turned things around for us,” Mariner said. “He’s an absolute ball of energy – a ball of fire. When he hit the post that was unfortunate.”

Amerikwa redeemed himself in the 68th minute when confusion off a restart saw the ball bounce perfectly to Toronto’s unmarked attacker, who buried his first-time half-volley into the lower left corner to level the proceedings.

While at times it looked as though the Reds were capable of pushing on for an eventual winner, having played a league match in Houston just three days prior, fatigue set in.

During the final 10 minutes Hall was forced into game-saving action at least twice, and Santos’ Felipe Baloy struck the post from a header.

Eventual goals in the 89th and 92nd minutes saw the visitors assert their superiority over a club that continues to be the architects of their own demise.

“We want to do well,” said Mariner, when asked if it’s possible to get up for the remaining group games. “Obviously it’s difficult now with just three teams (in a group).”

After beating Aguila this month, Toronto now trails Santos Laguna by three points after two of four group games. TFC next plays away to Aguila on Sept. 15 before facing Santos Laguna in Torreon on Oct. 24.


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