USA, Panama draw first blood with 3-0 wins over T&T, Costa Rica in League A quarterfinals

By Sports Desk November 17, 2023
Ricardo Pepi celebrates a goal against Trinidad and Toabgo. Ricardo Pepi celebrates a goal against Trinidad and Toabgo. Concacaf

United States and Panama both placed a foot in the Concacaf Nations League semi-final and, by extension, next year's Copa America, after they registered identical 3-0 victories in the first legs of their respective League A quarterfinals on Thursday.

United States vs. Trinidad and Tobago

A late surge earned the United States victory over Trinidad and Tobago at Q2 Stadium in Austin, Texas.

Antonee Robinson had a goal and an assist, as the United States scored three goals in the final 10 minutes of regular time to secure a healthy cushion going into Monday’s return leg.

As expected, United States dominated proceedings from the start, but they posed little threat in front of goal against a well-organised Trinidad and Tobago defence.

A second yellow card to Noah Powder in the 37th, saw the Soca Warriors down to 10 men with more than a half to play, and that prompted their host to commit numbers forward even more in search of the opening goal.

Trinidad and Tobago were stout-hearted and defiant at the back, especially goalkeeper Denzil Smith, whose confidence grew by saving a Yunus Musah attempt from distance and then a Sergino Dest shot.

However, their resistance was inevitably broken in the 81st, when Robinson’s cross from the left wing was flicked in by Ricardo Pepi to make it 1-0 to the home side.

While the goal inspired United States to push for more, it broke the hearts of the Trinidadians, and they imploded defensively as a result. Minutes after supplying the assist on the go-ahead goal, Robinson added a goal himself with a powerful left-footed finish in the 86th.

United States were keen to tack on one more before the final whistle and they did it in the 89th when Gio Reyna gathered a pass Folarin Balogun and fired into net to complete the 3-0 scoreline.

 

Costa Rica vs. Panama

Panama for the second straight time outclassed Costa Rica in a Nations League fixture at the Estadio Saprissa in San Jose.

After defeating the Ticos 1-0 in Costa Rica in the 2022-23 Nations League group stage, the Canaleros achieved the same feat, this time by a wider scoreline.

It was a dream start for Panama, as a picture-perfect fourth-minute free kick Michael Murillo went blazing into the top right corner of the net.

Panama remained on the front foot, and they doubled their advantage in the 29th when a miscued clearance from Costa Rica's defence allowed Jose Fajardo to swoop in and finish a right-footed effort.

Costa Rica sought a response and Jimmy Marin went close to pulling a goal back with a 33rd-minute shot that grazed the post.

Costa Rica mounted pressure to start the second half, but it allowed Panama to counterattack with space, and the visitors made the most of a break in the 60th. That play ended with Adalberto Carrasquilla sliding a pass into Cecilio Waterman, whose finish made it 3-0.

With the three-goal cushion, Panama played to their liking, but also kept the Costa Rican attack at bay, as they saw out the remainder of the contest for the win.

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