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Brazil, featuring Rivaldo, defends its title.

By Robert Wagman

LAS VEGAS (Tuesday, September 28, 1999) -- Ante Razov scored early and Dema Kovalenko late to propel the Chicago Fire to a 2-0 quarterfinal victory over Joe Public of Trinidad & Tobago before 6,521 at the CONCACAF Champions Cup at Sam Boyd Stadium tonight.

In Friday’s semifinals, the Fire of Major League Soccer will face Costa Rica’s Alajuelense, which used a goal by Josef Miso in the 58th minute to upset Toluca of Mexico 1-0.

"Tonight's goal was to advance to Friday and that is what we did," Chicago coach Bob Bradley said. "These games are difficult, and there are a lot of expectations, and they are not as easy as people might think they are. It is good to get the win though, I am pleased with the result, despite the lack of finishing. We have no preference as to whom we play in the next round.

Razov made it 1-0 with a glancing header of Peter Nowak’s bending corner kick in the 19th minute.

Chicago, clearly the more aggressive side, holding a 22-3 shots advantage, and would have scored several more except for the effort of Joe Public goalkeeper Donovan Thomas, who was superb throughout the match, making 11 and facing 10 corner kicks.

"We were all nervous and excited about being here and playing in this tournament," Nowak said. "We got lots of chances but didn't convert. Hopefully Friday can be the same -- we can get lots of chances -- but we need to convert the next time. We talked before the game about being patient and not getting frustrated if we can't finish our chances. The goals will come and we will get the chances. We just need to play like champions."

Kovalenko, a rookie striker, iced the victory in the 86th minute, taking a pass from another substitute, Paul Dougherty, and slamming a shot into an open net from five yards. Dougherty had dribbled up the left side and drawn Thomas out of the goal before passing the ball to Kovalenko.

"We made the game harder for ourselves by not putting away the chances we got," Fire defender Francis Okaroh said. "It has been this way all season, and as a result we keep team's in games, no matter the opponent, good or bad. Sometimes when we don't finish and then make silly mistakes we lose games, but I am happy for the win tonight. We need to come back strong and finish the chances that we get on Friday."

Chicago Fire 2, Joe Public 0

Lineups: Chicago - Zach Thronton, C.J. Brown, Lubos Kubik, Francis Okaroh, Diego Gutierrez, Chris Armas (Sam George 86), Jesse Marsch, Peter Nowak, Roman Kosecki (Dema Kovalenko 76), Ante Razov (Paul Dougherty 80), Jerzy Podbrozny; Joe Public - Donovan Thomas, Adaryll John, Eduardo Garcia (Fabio Agripino, 65), Stokely Mason, Travis Mulraine, Arnold Dwarika, Cyd Gray (Anthony Dhanoolal 46), Kerwyn Jemmot, Keyeno Thomas, Alvin Thomas, Nigel Pierre.

Chicago - Razov (Peter Nowak) 19;
Chicago - Kovalenko (Paul Dougherty) 82.

Shots: Chicago 22, Joe Public 3. Saves: Chicago 1, Joe Public 11. Corner kicks: Chicago 10, Joe Public 3. Fouls: Chicago 25, Joe Public 15. Offside: Chicago 9, Joe Public 1. Yellow card caution: Chicago - Brown 5, Podbrozny 79; Joe Public - John 55, Mason 58.

Referee: Victorino Rodriguez (El Salvador). Assistant referees: Arnulfo Gonzalez (Guatemala), Virgilio Ruiz (Belize). Attendance: 6,521 at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. Weather: 80 degrees, clear.

Alajuelense 1, Toluca 0

Lineups: Toluca - Hernan Cristante, Salvador Carmona, Omar Blanco, Antonio Taboada (Carlos Morales, 70), Victor Ruiz, Jose Cardoza, Manoel Ferreira (Rafael Garcia 62), Alberto Macias, David Rangel, Adrian Garcia (Antonio Matias 62), Jose Manuel Abundis; Alajuelense - Alvaro Messen, Javier Delgado, Enrique Smith, Wilmer Lopez, Wilson Munoz (Leonardo Duran 87), Josef Miso, Harold Wallace, Sandro Alfaro, Edson Luis Valente (Carlos Castor 94+), Pablo Chinchilla, Geovanny Hidalgo (Luis Diego Arnaez 56).

Alajuelense - Miso (Lopez) 58.

Shots: Toluca 6, Alajuelense 8. Saves: Toluca 6, Alajuelense 3. Corner kicks: Toluca 10, Alajuelense 6. Fouls: Toluca 6, Alajuelense 20. Offside: Toluca 2, Alajuelense 5. Yellow card caution: Alajuelense - Hidalgo 22, Smith 70.

Referee: Jose Farias (Canada). Assistant referees: Hector Vergara (Canada), Peter Pendergast (Jamaica). Attendance: 6,521 at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. Weather: 80 degrees, clear.

Robert Wagman is a regular contributor to SoccerTimes.

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