PORTLAND, Oregon – Michael Barrantes struck for a second-half brace to lift Costa Rica to a 3-0 victory over Cuba in the Group C opener of the CONCACAF Gold Cup at JELD-WEN Field on Tuesday evening.
After a scoreless first half, Barrantes finally broke down the stingy Cuban defense in the 52nd minute, taking an attempted clearance off his chest and firing a side volley into the net from 17 meters to put the Ticos in front.
Jairo Arrieta doubled Costa Rica’s advantage in the 71st minute, following his own saved point-blank shot from a Kenny Cunningham cross.
Barrantes added his second goal in the 77th minute, when he took two touches and tucked the ball to the right of goalkeeper Odelin Molina from 26 meters to give Costa Rica a 3-0 lead.
A midfielder at Norway’s Aalesund, Barrantes nearly had a hat-trick, but his goal in the 67th minute was called back when Alvaro Saborio was ruled offside.
Four minutes from full time, Cuba's Jose Ciprian Alfonso got behind the Ticos' defense, but his attempt was saved by Patrick Pemberton. The Alajuelense goalkeeper made three stops on the night to earn the clean sheet as Costa Rica’s unbeaten streak against Cuba, which dates back to 1998, continued.
Costa Rican defender Roy Miller had the game’s first scoring chance, but he put his open shot from eight meters well over the bar following a 21st minute corner kick.
Three minutes later, Cuba nearly capitalized on an error deep in the Costa Rican defensive third. Alberto Gomez, however, was also unable to put his shot from 20 meters on target.
Eight minutes before the break, Gomez missed on a header with the goal wide open.
Costa Rica, which opened the 2011 Gold Cup with a 5-0 victory over Cuba, extended its unbeaten streak to six consecutive matches. The Ticos will take on Belize Saturday night, while Cuba will meet the United States. Both matches will be held at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.