EAST RUTHERFORD: Mexico and Panama advanced to a Gold Cup semi-final showdown with triumphs on Sunday, one thanks to a dramatic save and the other on a late penalty kick after a controversial call.
Mexico captain Andres Guardado scored the lone goal from the spot in the 124th minute to lift Mexico over Costa Rica 1-0, while Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo denied Lester Peltier in the ninth round of penalty kicks as the Canaleros advanced 6-5 on penalties against Trinidad and Tobago after a 1-1 draw.
“I am overjoyed because today was a real blessing to be able to advance to the next round,” said Penedo.
After losing 2-1 to Panama in last edition’s semi-finals, six-time champions Mexico will seek revenge and an eighth trip to the finals of the biennial North American regional football championship when they meet again on Wednesday in Atlanta.
That winner earns a berth in next Sunday’s final at Philadelphia against the winner of Wednesday’s other semi-final between Jamaica and holders United States.
After more than two hours of goal-less football, Guatemalan referee Walter Lopez whistled for a contentious foul on Costa Rica’s Roy Miller following Mexican striker Oribe Peralta hurling himself onto the ground trying to reach a crossing pass.
The phantom foul brought Guardado to the spot and he blasted the ball into the left side of the net for the victory, delivering the only loss of the event for Costa Rica, who reached the World Cup quarter-finals last year in Brazil.
Penalty joy for Panama
Panama and Trinidad and Tobago were even at 1-1 through extra time; Luis Tejada giving Panama the lead in the 37th minute but Trinidad and Tobago equalising on a Kenwyne Jones header in the 54th minute.
And while Panama advanced, it took a save-or-lose situation in the seventh round of penalty kicks for them to escape.
Each team missed two of its first three penalties. Armando Cooper and Harold Cummings scored for Panama to open rounds but Kenwyne Jones and Radanfah Abu Bakr answered to keep Trinidad and Tobago going.
Marvin Phillip saved the seventh-round shot of Alberto Quintero to put the Canaleros on the edge of elimination but Trinidad and Tobago’s Daneil Cyrus booted his next shot over the crossbar to extend the drama.
“The key moment was when [Cyrus] took his kick and if they made it they win,” said Penedo. “The referee told me that and I thought ‘Ugh,’ but then he missed and we went on to win and now we can all smile.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 21st, 2015.
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