Central Americans, Jamaica into quarters
Monday evening again proved full of action at the CONCACAF Gold Cup as Guatemala and Honduras both secured a place in the quarter-finals from Group B alongside table topping Jamaica. Red Bull Arena outside of New York City saw Grenada, who have never won a Gold Cup match, again suffer a goal barrage as they were eliminated. Honduras, who reached the final of the continental championship in 1991, will take on Costa Rica in the last eight, while the perfect Reggae Boyz and Guatemala must wait for the conclusion of Group C to find out their opponents.
The day replayed – Knowing they needed to win by three goals to advance, Guatemala came out against minnows Grenada committed to attack and things went almost entirely their way from the start. In the midst of a scoring slump, the Blue and Whites eased nerves with two long-range efforts in the first half. The first by Jose del Aguila was all class, while the second - almost exactly five minutes later - was largely the result of some sloppy goalkeeping by Shemel Louison after a speculative shot by Marco Pappa. Nine minutes into the second half, Carlos Ruiz finally broke his duck after a strong run from Pappa set up Jairo Arreola in the box. His volley came back off the bar, but El Pescadito was waiting to slot home with the goal at his mercy, and again five minutes later, Guatemala had another goal, this time from Carlos Gallardo.
In the night’s other match, a pair of FIFA World Cup™ veterans put on an exciting and open affair. Honduras had the best of the opening, but saw their top scorer in the tournament, Carlos Costly, go off with an injury before the half-hour mark. Not long after, Caribbean Cup champions Jamaica began to up the pressure and found a breakthrough when Ryan Johnson’s long-range screamer came back off the crossbar, only to deflect off diving goalkeeper Noel Valladeres and into the net. In the second half, the sides stretched each other repeatedly but it wasn’t until the 70th minute that Jamaica seemed to have found another breakthrough as Osman Chavez brought down Johnson in the box. Valladeres made up for his poor fortune on the first goal by saving the penalty from US-based striker Johnson with a dive to his left. Honduras’s best chance of equalising came in the 77th minute when Victor Bernandez’s free-kick from over 35 yards out forced a top-drawer save from the Jamaican goalkeeper.
31 – The number of goals conceded by Caribbean sides Grenada (15 in Group B) and Cuba (16 in Group A) in their six combined matches. The two scored just a goal each in response.
Player of the day
Marco Pappa (Guatemala)
The 23-year-old Chicago Fire midfielder was a constant thorn in the side of the Grenadian defence, and he did more than anyone on the night to guarantee Guatemala’s place in the last eight. While his 22nd minute goal was fortunate, it was his marauding runs and accurate crossing from the left wing that set up both goals in the second half.
Goal of the day
Guatemala-Grenada, Jose del Aguila (16’)
Immediately after a flowing move from Grenada - their best of the match - that forced a quality save from Ricardo Jerez in the Guatemalan net, the Central Americans attacked down the left flank. The resulting cross was touched around deftly in the box by the Guatemalans while the Spice Boyz chased until Gonzalo Romero laid the ball off to Del Aguila, who was waiting at the top of the circle. His impressive blast sailed through the defence and caromed off the post to the diving goalkeeper’s right to open the scoring. It was without a doubt the class of the four goals that Guatemala scored on the evening.
Quote of the day
“We needed three goals, but we had to take it goal by goal. We managed the match how we wanted and ultimately got the result,” Former international goalkeeper and Guatemala coach, Ever Hugo Almeida, after his side’s must-win match.
On Tuesday 14 June, the brand new Livestrong Park in Kansas City will host USA as they try to get their campaign back on course against Guadeloupe, while group leaders Panama take on Canada. At the conclusion of Group C action, the quarter-finals of the Gold Cup will be set.
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