Moncada double powers Honduras Progreso past Pumas

Honduras Progreso's Victor Moncada (second from right) celebrates after scoring against visiting Pumas in a Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League game on September 15, 2016, in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. (Photo: Mexsport)

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras -- Victor Moncada scored twice from direct free kicks to lift Honduras Progreso to its first-ever victory in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League, a 2-1 Group A triumph over Liga MX’s Pumas on Thursday.

The 26-year-old midfielder equalized in the 57th minute and then struck for the match-winner in the first minute of stoppage time, sending the crowd at the Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano into delight.

In the process, the Honduran side’s quarterfinal hopes received a major boost. The Diablos (1W-1D-1L, 4 points) would’ve been eliminated from contention with a loss or draw against first-place UNAM (2-0-1, 6).

Alfonso Nieto scored early for the visitor, who enjoyed the better of play in the opening half-hour, but couldn’t add to its lead. It was the second loss in six matches against Honduran SCCL opponents for Pumas, which would’ve clinched a fourth quarterfinal appearance with a victory.

Honduras Progreso can leap into the top spot on September 29, when it hosts Trinidad & Tobago’s DirecTV W Connection (0-1-1, 1). That result would force Pumas to at least earn a draw at home against W Connection on October 20.

With his team trailing 1-0, Moncada came on in the 55th minute for center back Raimundo Calix as part of a shift to a more attack-minded shape.

Just a minute later, he earned a free kick 23 yards from goal after inducing Pumas’ Marcelo Alatorre into a foul. Moncada then curled a right-footed shot over the wall, beyond Alfredo Saldivar’s dive and into the top left corner.

As full time approached, Jorge Cardona earned a foul in a similar position, with the ball placed just beyond the penalty arc. Moncada stepped up again and this time bent his effort around the wall and inside the right post, setting off a wild celebrations.

Nieto put Pumas ahead with his second goal of the tournament in the 26th minute. After collecting a pass from the wing with his first touch in the right side of the penalty area, he turned and drove a right-footed shot from the corner of the six-yard box inside the far left post.