Dénis Bouanga, by scoring in second-half stoppage time of a 2-1 defeat at Liga MX's Club León on Wednesday night, gave LAFC a crucial lifeline in the first leg of the 2023 Concacaf Champions League Final.
The all-decisive second leg is set for Sunday at LAFC’s BMO Stadium, and the hosts will hope history repeats itself. Three years ago in CCL, the Black & Gold trailed Club León 2-0 after the opening leg before dramatically rallying to win the two-legged Round of 16 series with a 3-0 victory in the return fixture.
Club León, who hadn't played an official match since a May 7 defeat (3-1) to Atlético San Luis in the Liguilla’s early stages, raced in front after eight minutes.
A minute after John McCarthy made a terrific diving save to deny Alfonso Alvarado, the LAFC goalkeeper was left rooted to his spot as William Tesillo latched onto Ángel Mena’s corner kick and headed it into the net to give the hosts a 1-0 lead.
Mena then doubled León’s lead in first-half stoppage time from the penalty spot after Ryan Hollingshead was called for a handball in the box following Video Review.
Mena nearly found a second goal in the 58th minute, but McCarthy made a huge save. He made two more in the 77th minute to keep León to two goals, which proved massive when Bouanga bagged the late spark on a back-post finish in the 96th minute off a Mateusz Bogusz assist.
- 8’ – LEO – William Tesillo
- 45+5’ – LEO – Ángel Mena (PK)
- 90+6’ – LAFC – Dénis Bouanga
- THE BIG PICTURE: Many pegged LAFC as the favorite in this two-legged final, and the reigning MLS Cup-Supporters’ Shield winners have been flying during the early portion of the season both in league play and in CCL. Now, they face their first real adversity of the season, coming home trailing 2-1 after 90 minutes in their second CCL Final (LAFC lost to Liga MX's Tigres UANL 2-1 in the single-leg final in 2020).
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: It was daunting, not impossible, but Dénis Bouanga injected optimism into his club with a dramatic late goal to cut the deficit to one heading back to Southern California. LAFC's DP forward now has seven goals and four assists in seven CCL games this year, and he's kept alive the hope of back-to-back MLS CCL winners (Seattle Sounders FC historically were the first in league history to win last year).
- MAN OF THE MATCH: John McCarthy kept LAFC in the game at 2-0, making five saves to give his team a chance.
- Leg 2: Sunday, June 4 (6 pm PT | FS1, TUDN) | Concacaf Champions League Final Leg 2