Panama, T&T confirm Group A quarterfinal spots after contrasting results

By Sports Desk October 18, 2023
Trinidad and Tobago Trinidad and Tobago Concacaf

The group stage of League A of the 2023-24 Concacaf Nations League came to a thrilling conclusion on Tuesday night, with Panama and Trinidad and Tobago emerging as the top two sides in Group A to qualify for next month’s quarterfinals.

Panama topped the group with 10 points, one point ahead of Trinidad and Tobago, who ended with nine points.

Panama vs. Guatemala

Panama enjoyed a commanding 3-0 victory over Central American rivals Guatemala at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City.

Adalberto Carrasquilla has been one of the best players in the Concacaf region in 2023 and he showed why again by scoring Panama’s opener in the 14th when an initial clearance from the Guatemala defense fell right to the 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup Best Player Award winner, who volleyed into net for a 1-0 lead.

Panama kept pushing and a pivotal moment came in the initial moments of the second half when a fantastic first touch allowed Cristian Martinez to get past Guatemala’s Nicolas Samayoa in the area, with Martinez then getting fouled. 

A penalty was whistled, and a red card was issued to Samayoa, followed by Eric Davis converting the spot kick in the 48th for a 2-0 lead and a man advantage for almost the entire second half. 

Panama’s dream night was then capped in the 90th when Abdiel Ayarza guided a header past Guatemala goalkeeper Nicholas Hagen to seal the win.

El Salvador vs. Martinique

Martinique came up just shy in their bid for a quarterfinal spot in a 0-0 draw with El Salvador at the Estadio Nacional Jorge Magico Gonzalez in San Salvador.

Martinique finish in third place with seven points, while El Salvador earned their first point of the campaign.

Martinique had some good looks early and almost forced an own goal in the 24th when a back pass forced El Salvador goalkeeper Tomas Romero into a stretch save to prevent the opener.

El Salvador started to find their footing toward the end of the half and Mayer Gil’s strong shot was saved by Martinique goalkeeper Yannis Clementia right before halftime.

The second half saw El Salvador create two good scoring chances. The first fell for Leonardo Menjivar, who ended up missing over the crossbar at the far post in the 66th with the goalmouth open, followed by a Brayan Gil header in second half stoppage time that was saved by Clementia.

Martinique would muster the final chance of the night, as Crifar Mael’s effort in the waning seconds was saved nicely by Romero, who ensured the points were shared.

Curacao vs. Trinidad and Tobago

Curacao earned their first win of the group stage in impressive fashion with a 5-3 triumph over Trinidad and Tobago at the Ergilio Hato Stadium in Willemstad.

It was an ideal start for Curacao, who took a 1-0 lead in the seventh when a long ball was played up to Rangelo Janga and the experienced striker finished with aplomb past Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Denzil Smith.

Curacao were hungry for more and they doubled the lead in the 12th when Kenji Gorre found Godfried Roemeratoe, who fired into net past Smith.

The Curacao attack was unyielding and a hard run from Gorre in the 54th ended in a foul in the Trinidad and Tobago area and a penalty kick. Gorre stepped up and easily converted from the spot, extending the Curacao advantage to 3-0.

Trinidad and Tobago were finally able to pull back a goal in the 68th as Ryan Telfer found Reon Moore with a cross from the right wing and Moore finished.

That goal shifted the momentum in Trinidad and Tobago’s and they further reduced the deficit in the 74th when a rebound fell for Kristian Lee-Him to latch onto and fire into goal.

Curacao had a golden opportunity to restore a two-goal advantage from the penalty spot in the 75th after a Trinidad and Tobago handball, only to see Smith save Brandley Kuwas’ penalty.

But three minutes later it was 4-2 via the penalty spot after a foul in the area. This time Juninho Bacuna stroked it into net for Curacao.

Curacao’s three-goal lead was then restored in the 81st when Roshon Van Eijma’s header hit the crossbar, but Janga was there to head in the rebound to make it 5-2.

Their chances at winning the group were fading away, but Trinidad and Tobago wanted to make sure they held onto the second spot, and they made it a 5-3 final scoreline in the 86th when a free kick was played in front of the Curacao goal and Kareem Moses poked home the loose ball.

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