Guardado’s last-gasp penalty puts Mexico in semis

Mexico's Andres Guardado (pictured) celebrates after scoring the goal that defeated Costa Rica in CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinals on July 19, 2015, in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo: Mexsport)

EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey – Andres Guardado converted a penalty kick deep into stoppage time of the second extra-time period, giving Mexico a 1-0 victory over Costa Rica in the CONCACAF Gold Cup on Sunday.

As a result, the Mexicans secured a fifth straight trip to the semifinals. Costa Rica, the 2014 Central American Cup champion, was eliminated at the same stage for the third consecutive time.

On a hot night at MetLife Stadium – located a short distance west of New York City -- the high-octane quarterfinal produced plentiful action for the crowd of 74,187 as both sides created numerous scoring chances, but only one ultimately found the back of the net.

That goal came in what was essentially the 124th minute of play with Guardado leaving no doubt, lashing his left-footed kick from the spot authoritatively into the left side of the net. The PSV Eindhoven star was presented with the opportunity to be the hero, when referee Walter Lopez ruled that Oribe Peralta -- as he was trying to latch onto Miguel Layun’s left-sided cross -- was fouled by Costa Rica’s Roy Miller in the box.

Peralta, who won the 2014/15 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League with Club America, thought he put Mexico ahead much earlier. In the fourth minute, his goal was disallowed after club and country teammate Paul Aguilar was called for a foul on Jose Miguel Cubero.

Just before halftime, Peralta nearly gave the six-time champion the lead. The 31-year-old forward received a superb pass from Guardado in the left side of the box, cut inside with a move that saw Cubero go to ground and fired high from the upper-left corner of the six-yard box.

Costa Rica was active offensively thanks in large part to the influential Joel Campbell, who found another gear despite the conditions. His half cross-half shot from the right side forced goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa to bat away the ball acrobatically at the left post.

A 30-yard, left-footed rocket by Guardado was thwarted by goalkeeper Esteban Alvarado’s two-handed diving save, while Costa Rica’s Celso Borges probably wished he did better with a tidy feed from Bryan Ruiz rather than blazing over the crossbar from 18-yards out.

Following the break, Mexico went on the attack once again only to be frustrated by the woodwork, excellent goalkeeping and some uneven finishing.

Seven minutes into the second half, Peralta found the right post after being played into shooting position by an astute header from Carlos Vela.

Alvarado then made another mystifying stop, thwarting a quickly snapped, eight-yard effort by Carlos Esquivel even though he was leaning the other way.

A pair of attempts were then spurned by Vela. The 26-year-old stumbled while trying to shoot after a swift counterattack and an excellent pass by Guardado set him into motion. He followed up that with a 76th minute miss from six yards.

The semifinals are slated for Wednesday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta with Mexico taking on Panama and the defending champion United States squaring off against Jamaica.

Panama defeated Mexico twice in the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup, including a 2-1 triumph in the final four.