T&T defender Aubrey David returned to the Deportivo Saprissa starting line-up as his team battled to a 2-2 draw away to bitter-rival Alajuelense in their top-of-the-table Costa Rican Premier Division Clausura 'Classico' on Sunday night.
Having missed his team's 1-0 win over Limon on Wednesday due to an automatic suspension after the accumulation of five yellow-cards, the 29-year-old Guyana-born David played in the centre of defence alongside David Guzman.
But after starting well and wasting an early chance via Christian Bolanos, the league's top scorer with 15 goals, Saprissa fell behind to a strike from Allen Guevera in the 30th minute when the latter found space atop the 18-yard box to fire a right-footed effort into the bottom right-hand corner of the goal from a right-sided Ariel Lassiter centre at the Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto, Alajuela.
Nine minutes into the second-half, Alajuelense made it 2-0 when Jonathan Moya capitalised on a slip by a Saprissa defender to get behind the defence down the left flank and picked out an onrushing Lassiter to slot the ball past goalkeeper Aaron Cruz.
Despite the daunting task of clawing their way back from a 2-0 deficit to maintain their seven-point lead at the top with three matches left, David and his team-mates did not drop their heads and in the 67th minute, Ariel Rodriguez volleyed home a right-sided corner to cut the lead into the half.
Saprissa then introduced Luis Stewart Perez and Byron Bonilla, both in the 69th minute as they went in search of the equaliser, and six minutes before the final whistle it came when Rodriguez stabbed home his second of the contest, from close range after Alajuelense goalkeeper Leonel Moreira fumbled a shot from just outside the 18-yard box that almost sneaked in at the near post.
Despite the drawn result, Saprissa improved to 43 points from 19 matches after pushing their unbeaten run to six matches, seven points more than Alajuelense while third-placed Herediano has 33 points, two more than Cartagines.
Saprissa will have a chance to make certain of the top spot in the Clausura when it entertains fifth-placed Jicaral tomorrow (Wednesday) before completing the regular-season against seventh-placed Municipal Grecia on Saturday and cellar-placed La U Universitarios.
Speaking after the match, David was quick to admit it was the toughest match his team had faced since the resumption of the league on May 20, following the break in the season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
He said, "It was a tough game as any Classico because nobody wants to lose a Classico. We started the game well and had early control and had a chance to take the lead but unfortunately, we went behind and at half-time, we were losing 1-nil."
David also praised his team-mates for showing real grit in overcoming the deficit saying: "We came back out second-half to get back even, but instead they scored another one, but we showed real fight and determination to get a goal and get back into the game.
"In the last ten minutes we continued to pile on the pressure and got the equaliser, and we didn't stop there as we continued to apply the pressure but time ran out on us and the game ended 2-2."
Looking ahead to the rest of the season, David said he was confident his team can get to the final.
"We have three more league matches left and then the top four teams will contest the semifinal, followed by the final, so we just need to win one of our remaining matches to be assured of top spot going into the semifinals and we are confident of getting to the final," said David.