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Honduras downs Costa Rica 1-0, seals semifinal berth

BALTIMORE -- Honduras combined some timely goalkeeping by Donis Escober and a goal by Andy Najar to register a 1-0 victory over Costa Rica in a CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal match at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday.

The win avenged 1-0 losses to the Ticos in World Cup qualifying last month and in January’s UNCAF Copa Centroamericana final.  It also booked the Hondurans a spot in the semifinals. They will meet the United States, which earlier defeated El Salvador (5-1), in Arlington, Texas, on Wednesday.

A sellout crowd of 70,540 watched the two Central American rivals battle it out. It was the third largest crowd for a Gold Cup quarterfinal date in tournament history.

The first half consisted of near misses by both sides, but nothing concrete on net.

With the game barely two minutes old, Costa Rica's Alvaro Saborio found himself open in front of the goal, but he sent his close-range shot wide left.

After that, Honduras started to find its rhythm.  Alexander Lopez was stopped on a counterattack in the 32nd minute and Najar fired wide left seconds later.

Honduras had a goal disallowed in the 36th minute, when Marvin Chavez was whistled for a foul on goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton.  The San Jose Earthquakes star was issued a yellow card by referee Courtney Campbell for the infraction.

Los Catrachos finally broke the ice in the 49th minute as Najar, who played for nearby D.C. United before transferring to Belgium’s Anderlecht, headed a right-wing cross from Alexander Lopez past goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton into the lower left corner for a 1-0 lead.

Escober was outstanding when he was called upon during a 67-second span midway through the second half. First, he denied Saborio from point-blank range in the 62nd minute and then thwarted Michael Barrantes' shot from the left side.

The Ticos threw caution to the wind over the final 15 minutes, forcing the issue. Honduras’ defense, though, was able to stifle any penetration, preserving the shutout and victory.

Esocber caught Yendrick Ruiz's line-drive shot four minutes into second-half stoppage time. Mauricio Castillo tried a last-ditch shot, but his attempt sailed wide left.

About 30 seconds later, Campbell blew the final whistle and the Hondurans started their celebrations -- in the stands and on the field.

NOTES: Honduras advanced to the Gold Cup semifinals for a fifth time…Honduras lost to the United States in the 2005 (2-1) and 2009 (2-0) semifinals…Honduras has progress to one Gold Cup final, the inaugural tournament in 1991, falling on penalty kick 4-3 after a scoreless draw…Costa Rica tied Honduras 1-1 in the 2011 quarterfinals, but fell on penalty kicks 4-2.

 

 
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