San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Saprissa come back for fifth consecutive title

Deportivo Saprissa won their fifth consecutive Costa Rican soccer league title after beating main rival Liga Deportiva Alajuelense 3-0 Saturday night in a lively home game.

Saprissa won a historic 28th national title after coming back from a 0-2 deficit after losing to La Liga Wednesday in the Alajuelense stadium in the first game of the two-game championship.

With the win Saturday, the “purple monster” finished the championship leading 3-2 on aggregate goals.

The two teams battled in the Winter Tournament final intensely and tirelessly for 90 minutes.

Saprissa showed the strong game it had failed to bring Wednesday, opening with a swift goal in the 12th minute. Winger Michael Barrantes crossed the ball to midfielder Armando Alonso, drawing Alajuelense´s keeper, Patrick Pemberton, to the far post. Alonso then headed it back across the goal to striker Alejandro Alpízar, who headed it easily into the near post.

Less than a minute later, Alonso scored off a lobbed chip from Alpízar that Pemberton failed to challenge fully and get his hands on.

After watching its 2-0 advantage wiped out in a matter of seconds, La Liga, led by Argentine Marcelo Herrera, tried to reorganize and take back their advantage. But in the last minutes of the first half, Saprissa upped their attack and almost notched their third goal.

At the beginning of the second half, both teams found themselves with 10 men on the field after Liga midfielder Argenis González and Saprissa defender Alexander Robinson received red cards for trading blows and were ejected from the game.

During the final minutes of the game, it looked like the match might head into overtime, but Saprissa pulled out all the stakes, putting in forward Jairo Arrieta. The move paid off. Arrieta scored Saprissa´s third goal of the game in the 80th minute with a header over two Liga defenders, sending the stadium – and strident Saprissistas throughout the country – into celebration.

“Other teams win games. Saprissa wins championships,”Alonso told reporter afterward.

The two teams are by far the most dominant in Costa Rican soccer, to the point that a common critique of the domestic league is that they are the only two competitive teams. Indeed, no other team has won a league title since Herediano in 1993.

Saprissa lead the country with their 28 titles. Alajuelense are second with 24. Alajuelense´s win last Wednesday was their first against the Tibás squad in their last 20 meetings.

Newswire EFE contributed to this report.

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