The Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte provided the setting for the second round of matches in Group A of the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup. First up were Costa Rica and El Salvador, with Los Ticos grateful to escape with a late draw after trailing 1-0 for much of the game, while Mexico took charge of the section with their second 5-0 win, this time over bottom side Cuba.
The day replayed – Having put five past Cuba in their opening game, Costa Rica were confident of further success as they ran out against El Salvador. Content to sit deep and hit on the break, Los Azules handled everything Los Ticos had to throw at them, however, before taking the lead right on half-time through Rodolfo Zelaya’s superbly struck free-kick. The pattern remained unchanged after the break, with the Costa Ricans applying the pressure and their opponents soaking it up. But just when it looked as if Ricardo La Volpe’s side had run out of time, up popped Randall Brenes to rifle home an equaliser from just inside the penalty box.
Taking the plaudits in the second game was Mexico’s Javier Hernandez, who scored two more goals against Cuba to take his tournament haul to five in two outings. Chicharito it was who set the Mexicans on their way, unlocking the Cuban defence 36 minutes in. Just as they did against El Salvador in their pool opener, El Tri went on to rack up five goals without reply, four of them coming after the restart. A key feature was the speed of their play down the flanks, giving Jose Manuel de la Torre’s side a valuable cutting edge that could take them all the way in the USA.
77 – The number of years since Mexico and Cuba first played each other. In all that time the Cubans have been unable to register even a draw, losing every one of their 11 meetings with the Mexicans.
Player of the day
Aldo de Nigris (Mexico)
The 27-year-old striker underlined his status as a talisman for El Tri by jumping off the bench and scoring his side’s third goal in their 5-0 demolition of Cuba. Combining to perfection with livewire Hernandez, De Nigris offers the formidable Mexicans yet another attacking weapon.
Goal of the day
Costa Rica-El Salvador, Rodolfo Zelaya 44
Lining up a free-kick just outside the Tico box, Rodolfo Zelaya flighted a perfectly weighted and directed shot into the back of the net to put El Salvador in front and on the road to their first point of the competition.
Quote of the day
“This game showed that the team’s commitment and objectives remain unchanged from the start of the tournament. The important thing is to stick to our gameplan and focus on what we need to do to win games.” Mexico coach Jose Manuel de la Torre.
The Gold Cup continues on Friday with two games in Group B. Jamaica and Guatemala take to the stage first in what promises to be an open game, followed by Grenada’s meeting with Honduras, one the islanders need to win.
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