For the second time this weekend a Gold Cup quarterfinal was decided in penalty kicks. This time it was Panama who came out on top 5-3 after they played El Salvador to a 120 minute 1-1 draw.
The match had everything you could ask for in a match; theatrics, late goals, physicality, red cards and then the suspense at the end. It even had a stadium full of angry El Salvadorian fans who couldn’t believe their team blew a late 1-0 lead.
The blown lead happened when Panama forward Blais Perez hit an 88th minute cross through the box and Salvadorian ‘keeper Miguel Montes looked to eschew the attempt. However, the ball fell to Luis Tejada who did little more than push the ball into Montes’ hands. However, Montes was in the goal – thanks to Univision’s excellent replay we know this – and was holding the ball as it crossed the end line.
El Salvador took the lead in the 78th minute when Rodolfo Zelaya scored a penalty kick goal after being taken down in the box. The conversion redeemed Zelaya after the Salvadorian forward gaffed on a 22nd minute penalty try.
With a majority of the packed house thinking La Selecta was on their way to the semifinals against the U.S. Perez’ late goal sent a shock wave through the stadium. The tension transferred to the field when Perez and Luis Anaya were shown red cards for a dust up in the time between regular and extra time. Both teams played down a man in extra time and Perez will not be available in the semifinals – which will be a major blow.
After the 120 minute stalemate Panama put on a penalty kick clinic burying all five attempts to send them through to Houston.
Now Panama will have to beat the U.S. for the second time in 2 weeks to earn passage to the finale in Wednesday’s first match. The night cap will be between Mexico and Honduras. One thing’s for sure, Wednesday is shaping up to be an exciting night.
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com and contributes to Soccerlens.com during the Gold Cup. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.