20.12.2020 07:40 h

Vela brace lifts LAFC into CONCACAF Champions League final against Tigres

Carlos Vela scored twice as Los Angeles FC defeated Club America 3-1 Saturday to book a CONCACAF Champions League final showdown against Tigres UANL.

LAFC became the first Major League Soccer Club since Toronto FC in 2018 to reach the final of the elite club competition in the North and Central America and Caribbean region.

Now they'll try to do what Toronto -- and the Montreal Impact and Real Salt Lake before them -- were unable to do and beat a Liga MX team for the crown.

Tigres, with a brace from France's Andre-Pierre Gignac, defeated Olimpia of Honduras 3-0 to reach their fourth final in five years.

The second match of the night at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Florida -- where the final stages of the tournament are being held to mitigate risks of disruption from the coronavirus pandemic -- was a contentious affair that saw both teams reduced to 10 men by the end.

Mexico international Vela bagged his second brace of the tournament as LAFC beat their third Mexican opponent of the competition.

Club America struck first, taking a 1-0 lead in the 11th minute when Sebastian Caceres slotted home a corner kick.

With tension mounting in first-half stoppage time, LAFC's Colombian midfielder Eduard Atuesta was shown a red card for contact with Club America goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa after Atuesta appeared to be fouled in the penalty area by Richard Sanchez.

No penalty was awarded and LAFC came into the second half down a goal and a man.

But Vela came to the rescue, scoring twice in the space of 72 seconds.

He seized upon a turnover from Caceres to score 13 seconds into the second half.

Club America were still reeling when Vela put LAFC up 2-0 in the 47th minute, collecting a long pass from Eddie Segura and beating Ochoa with a low left-footed blast.

LAFC sealed the victory in the 95th minute when Ghanaian midfielder Latif Blessing scored on the rebound of Diego Rossi's attempt.

Club America midfielder Luis Reyes had been show a red card in the 79th for a studs-up challenge on Rossi.

LAFC will battle for the crown in Tuesday's final against Tigres, whose Gignac converted twice from the spot to take his tally of Champions League goals to 13.

Shortly before halftime, Olimpia goalkeeper Edrick Menjivar was drawn off his line to punch away a corner kick, the ball cleared to Tigres' Carlos Salcedo whose overhead kick forced a goal-line clearance.

It bounced off the crossbar toward Luis Quinones, whose shot struck the arm of Olimpia's Deybi Flores on the goal-line -- resulting in a penalty and red card for Flores.

Gignac converted for a 1-0 halftime lead, and Tigres stretched that lead with a man advantage in the second half.

A handball in the area gave them another penalty in the 57th minute and Gignac converted again to double the score.

They went 3-0 up in the 78th when Olimpia defender Elvin Casildo deflected a ball from Gignac into his own goal.