PASADENA, CA – Gabriel Torres scored twice to lead Panama to a 2-1 win over Mexico in the CONCACAF Gold Cup opener for each at the Rose Bowl Sunday. The 24-year-old netted early in each half, earning the Panamanians three points in Group A.
Panama went ahead in the seventh minute, when Torres converted a penalty kick after referee Walter Quesada spotted Alberto Quintero being tripped in the box by Mexico’s Raul Jimenez. Torres buried the ball into the left side of the net, out of the reach of a diving Jonathan Orozco.
Mexico tied the game at 1-1 during first-half injury time. Marco Fabian beat his defender to a pinpoint pass from Israel Jimenez, brought the ball down and knocked it in with his right foot.
It was a play that appeared to give head coach Jose Manuel de la Torre’s team a confidence boost.
El Tri pushed in the final moments of the first half. As Rafael Marquez Lugo’s header off an Israel Jimenez pass sailed wide right.
Panama took the lead for good in the 48th minute thanks to Torres’ second goal. The Venezuela-based forward Torres beat defender Joel Huiqui to a Quintero pass into the six-yard box and one-touched past Orozco.
Mexico tried to answer with a series of counter attacks, including a give-and-go play between Fabian and second-half substitute Carlos Pena in the 53rd minute. Pena filtered a feed to Fabian, whose low, rolling shot went off the right post.
De la Torre then opted to replace three of his midfielders, hoping to create some fluidity and provide better service to his forwards.
The two-time defending Gold Cup champion produced a chance with six minutes left in regulation, however, Juan Carlos Valenzuela’s header went straight into Penedo’s hands.
According to FIFA records, the win was Panama’s first in 10 all-time games against the Mexicans.
Group A action resumes on Thursday in Seattle with a top-of-the-table clash between Panama and Martinique, followed by an encounter between Mexico and Canada.