USA put the weekend’s 4-0 hiding by world champions Spain behind them with a straightforward 2-0 win over Canada on Tuesday evening, while Panama held off Guadeloupe 3-2 to keep pace in Group C at the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Although the matches were hosted in Detroit near the Canadian border, the USA showed no mercy in taking to 14 matches their unbeaten run against their northern neighbours. Panama earned revenge for their only previous meeting with Guadeloupe; a 2-1 Gold Cup loss in 2009.
The day replayed – In the evening’s first match, Panama ran out to a three-goal advantage as their strike partnership of Luis Tejada and Blas Perez proved too strong and fast for the Guadeloupe defence. Just before the half-hour mark, the 2005 Gold Cup finalists opened the scoring after a long throw was chested down well by Tejada into the path of Perez, who found himself alone in front of goal and slotted home a left-footed blast with only the stranded goalkeeper to beat. Perez returned the favour just minutes later when his long ball set up Tejada, who beat two defenders and finally the goalkeeper for a fine tally to double the advantage. Shortly after the two quick goals, Guadeloupe’s Mickael Tacalfred was sent off for what looked to be an accidental stamp, and the red-clad Central Americans seemed to be rolling when Guadeloupe’s Miguel Comminges tripped Perez in the box and Gabriel Gomez converted the penalty in the 57th minute. But when it looked like the match was done and dusted, the Gwada Boys fought their way back into the contest behind Brice Jovial’s second half brace, and they will now face Canada in their next match on Saturday with heads held high.
The United States will face La Marea Roja also on Saturday with the top of the group at stake after they eased past Stephen Hart’s Canada. Seeking their fifth Gold Cup title, the Americans were on the front foot from the start of the match, and Canada, winners of the event in 2000, were slow to get going. The result was hardly unexpected given that the USA have never lost a match in the group stage of the continental championship, winning 23 out of 25 games. Landon Donovan created the opener out of nothing in the 15th minute when he laid a pass into the path of Jozy Altidore, who turned and tried a speculative shot, which managed to squeeze under Canada goalkeeper Lars Hirschfeld. Donovan and Steve Cherundolo rampaged down the right throughout the match for the US, and it was from that flank that Altidore set up the second goal near the hour mark. The big striker’s cross was deflected by Juan Agudelo into the path of the marauding Clint Dempsey at the back post, and his sliding, left-footed finish was the 20th international goal for the Fulham forward. USA goalkeeper Tim Howard made a handful of top-drawer saves in the last half-hour to maintain the scoreline.
21 – The number of goals scored through one round of Gold Cup matches. The average of 3.5 goals in the six contests would be an even more remarkable four per contest if Monday’s scoreless draw between Honduras and Guatemala is discounted from the mix.
Player of the day
Brice Jovial (Guadeloupe)
The burly forward came on just two minutes into the second half with the islanders seemingly out of contention against Panama, but the national team newcomer’s direct running injected his side with purpose and hope. The France-based striker pressured Los Canaleros throughout the second half, and he gave the Guadeloupians a lifeline in the 65th minute when he was first to his own rebound and slotted a shot from a tight angle past a defender on the line. A quarter of an hour later, Jovial doubled his output with an excellently timed slide into the path of Richard Socrier’s pass to poke the ball past the goalkeeper.
Goal of the day
Panama-Guadeloupe, Luis Tejada (32’)
After setting up the side’s first goal, Panama’s Tejada did all of the hard work himself for the second. The 2005 Gold Cup Most Valuable Player gathered the ball well, cut across the top of the area and stopped on a dime, pulling the ball back and leaving two defenders on the ground. With self-created room, Tejada took his time and made no mistake with a curling right-footed shot past the goalkeeper from 15 yards. In 2005, Tejada ended up as the tournament’s co-top-scorer with three goals, and he is on his way to equalling that tally.
Quote of the day
“We suffered at the end despite having been on top throughout the game, but thankfully we gave ourselves a three-goal cushion,” Panama coach Julio Dely Valdes.
On Thursday 9 June, Mexico and Costa Rica will try to qualify for the knockout rounds with a match to spare in Group A after they both opened the tournament with 5-0 victories. The Ticos will face El Salvador, while holders and five-time Gold Cup champions El Tri will take on Cuba - both in Charlotte, North Carolina.
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