SAN JOSE, Costa Rica - Bryan Ruiz and Celso Borges scored three minutes apart in the second half to lift Costa Rica to a 2-0 win over Panama in a World Cup qualifier Tuesday at the Estadio Nacional.
After a scoreless first half, Costa Rica came out of the locker room inspired, needing just four minutes to take the lead.
Ruiz put the host in front in the 49th minute, bouncing a low free kick from 30 meters that deflected inside the far post.
Three minutes later, the Ticos' captain played provider, delivering a pass to Borges, who took a touch and hammered a shot from distance to double the lead.
The influential Ruiz nearly added a second goal in 61st minute, but his first-time shot from inside the 18-yard box off a feed from Joel Campbell blazed over the crossbar.
Blas Perez returned to the Panama starting line-up after missing last week's 2-0 loss against the United States with an inflamed gastrointestinal tract, but the FC Dallas forward was subbed out in the 21 minutes left in regulation.
The Panamanians were unable to generate much of a second-half attack against the Costa Rica defense, which posted its fourth straight shutout in the hexagonal.
The visitors best chance came with four minutes left on the clock, when Leonel Parris sent a teasing ball across the face of goal. Goalkeeper Keylor Navas managed to get a piece of the ball as it went out for a corner.
Costa Rica is unbeaten in 14 of its last 15 matches and is moving closer to a berth in Brazil. It remains second in the hexagonal, two points behind the United States (13 pts.). They will meet in a top-of-the table clash on Sept. 6 in Central America.
Fifth-place Panama (6 pts.) is now winless in its last three qualifiers and will next host Jamaica, also on Sept. 6.
Costa Rica, Panama and the United States, though, will first compete in July's CONCACAF Gold Cup, which starts on July 7 in Pasadena, California.