Arabe Unido celebrates after defeating Plaza Amador in the Panamanian Apertura final on December 3, 2016, in Panama City. (Photo courtesy of Arabe Unido)
PANAMA CITY, Panama – Arabe Unido captured the Panamanian league title for the third time in the last four tournaments and claimed a berth in the 2017/18 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League by defeating Plaza Amador, 2-0, in the 2016 Apertura final on Saturday.
The victory capped a remarkable 2016 for the Expreso Azul, which also advanced to the 2016/17 SCCL quarterfinals against FC Dallas after topping Group D with a perfect 4W-0D-0L record, including two wins against three-time champion Monterrey.
At the managerial helm for all that success is Sergio Guzman, who also won the 2008 Panamanian Clausura with Arabe Unido as a player. He was full of praise for a squad that has set a competitive standard in the Central American nation.
“I take my hat off to those boys,” said Guzman after the win over Plaza Amador. “They landed an impressive blow. They pulled out all their courage. They brought out everything that they had and they showed that they can give everything and a little bit more. The truth is that I am very proud of these boys.”
In the Apertura final, Enrico Small netted in the 70th minute to punctuate the scoreline with his league-best 16th goal of the season, a feat he previously achieved in Panama’s second division -- the Liga Nacional de Ascenso (LNA).
“I have been playing in the LFP for a while,” the 27-year-old concluded. “I was the goal-scoring champion in the LNA and I wanted to do it here and thank God the opportunity came through for me.”