Costa Rica wins seventh UNCAF title
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica - Giancarlo Gonzalez scored in the first half and Costa Rica won its seventh Central American championship Sunday, edging rival Honduras 1-0 at the Estadio Nacional.

An electric pairing on a cold night in San Jose, pitted the two all-time winningest sides in UNCAF Copa Centroamericana history against each other once again.  The encounter was a rematch of the 2011 final won 2-1 by Honduras.

Action began at a fever pitch. In just the fourth minute, Alvaro Saborio was put in alone on the Honduran goal, but goalkeeper Donis Ecober miraculously palmed the Costa Rican's shot away for a corner.

Nine minutes later, Saborio had another golden opportunity, when a cross bounced into his path just yards from the Honduran goal. Under heavy pressure from the defense, the Real Salt Lake forward could only sky his shot over the bar.

The action gradually became more balanced, with Honduras foraying up field through Mario Martinez and Roger Rojas. It was the home side, though, that took the lead as the first half wore down.

After series of rebounds following a set piece, a looping ball into the area found the head of defender Giancarlo Gonzalez. The center back bravely fought off his mark and nodded forcefully past a diving Escober to give the home side the lead in the 37th minute.

That set the table for a thrilling second stanza in which the Catrachos pushed the issue immediately.

The sustained pressure eventually yielded Honduras' best chance of the night. In the 66th minute, forward Jerry Bengtson flicked on expertly for a streaking Rojas. The Olimpia standout's point blank shot was knocked away by Patrick Pemberton, the Costa Rican goalkeeper and tournament Most Valuable Player.

Eight minutes later, Costa Rica had a chance to put the match away. Newly-entered substitute Juan Diego Madrigal lined up a Christopher Meneses cross and slammed a shot on goal that Escober saved.

Despite the continued Honduran push, that chance would prove to be the last clear one of the match for either team, as the Costa Rican defense dug in and prevented the Hondurans from stringing together passes and posing a further threat to the home goal.

The victory gave Costa Rica a record seventh Copa Centroamericana title, while Honduras remains a three-time champion. By making the semifinals, both teams advance to the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup, joining El Salvador, Belize and Panama in representing Central America in the confederation event to be played in the United States, July 7-28.