The Costa Rican flag is waving high on the world soccer stage. On Tuesday, the day before the country’s Independence Day, three Costa Rican players had successful debuts with their club teams in UEFA Champions League competition in Europe, while San José-based Deportivo Saprissa took down the Seattle Sounders 2-0 in a Concacaf Champions League game played at Ricardo Saprissa Stadium in Tibás, just north of the capital city.
Costa Rican star forward Bryan Ruiz, who plays for Dutch club team FC Twente, opened UEFA Champions League play Tuesday against the defending champions of the annual tournament, Inter Milan of Italy. FC Twente, in their first-ever Champions League match, played Inter Milan to a 2-2 draw, earning a vital point in Group A, which includes Tottenham Hotspur FC of England and Werder Bremen of Germany. Ruiz played the entire game.
The other two Ticos playing in Champions League games, Cristian Bolaños and Brian Oviedo of Denmark’s FC Copenhagen, also enjoyed a triumphant start to the tournament with a 1-0 win over FC Rubin Kazan of Russia. Dame N’Doye of Senegal headed in the game’s lone goal in the 87th minute to put FC Copenhagen atop Group D with three points. Spanish powerhouse Barcelona, which beat Pana-thinaikos FC of Greece 5-1 on Tuesday, also has three points in Group D. Bolaños, who is usually a starter for FC Copenhagen, entered the game as a substitute in the 75th minute.
In the Concacaf Champions League, a tournament played between the top club teams of North and Central America, Saprissa took down the Seattle Sounders of U.S. Major League Soccer 2-0. After an evenly matched first 38 minutes, Costa Rican Leonardo González, who plays for Seattle, was shown a red card after going hard into a challenge with his cleats raised. Though his cleats dug into the thigh of Saprissa player Jairo Arrieta, González’s seemingly unintentional play did not appear to merit a straight red card, which was shown by Mexican referee Marco Rodríguez, a veteran of the 2006 and 2010 World Cups.
In the second half, Saprissa opened the scoring on a low 20-yard blast by David Guzmán in the 55th minute. Seattle responded by pushing more players into the attack and was rewarded with a penalty kick in the 67th minute when Saprissa defender Gabriel Badilla took down Sounders forward Freddy Montero in the penalty area. However, Saprissa goalkeeper Fausto González came up with the biggest play of the night, pushing Osvaldo Alonso’s penalty shot wide to keep Seattle scoreless.
In the 80th minute, Saprissa forward Allan Alemán poked a counterattack goal past Seattle goalkeeper Terry Boss to secure the win.