• Wednesday Dec 12, 2012

    Honduras U17s qualify for CONCACAF finals

    SAN MIGUEL PETAPA, Guatemala -- Honduras qualified for the finals of next year's CONCACAF Under-17 Championship with its third win on the trot, while Costa Rica got off the mark against El Salvador on Tuesday at the UNCAF U-17 Championship.

    In the early match of a doubleheader played at the Estadio Julio Armando Cobar, Nicaragua had a pair of early opportunities through target man Yader Bonilla. Honduran goalkeeper Cristian Hernandez, though, proved up to the challenges, daringly coming out to the penalty spot on one notable occasion midway through the first half, to make a save after a defensive miscue.

    Honduras had its clearest chance of the first period in the 44th minute through Steven Ramos, but the diminutive attacker lifted his shot over the bar after cutting back neatly in the Nicaraguan area.

    Just six minutes into the second half, however, Honduras finally got the break through it was looking for. Alberth Elis Martinez raided the area and attempted a cross that struck the arm of Nicaraguan defender Santiago Cruz. Devron Garcia stepped up to dispatch his second penalty kick of the tournament for the 1-0 lead.

    A quarter of an hour later, Ramos gave the Hondurans a bit of tranquility, putting his team up by two by tapping in an Elis Martinez feed from close range.

    The Honduran offense began to roll, and, in the 75th minute, second-half substitute Jorge Bodden fired the Catrachos into a 3-0 lead, finishing past Nicaraguan goalkeeper Luis Montealto with a well-placed shot from just inside the box.

    Garcia then closed the scoring with two minutes left in regulation, controlling a corner kick and firing past a stranded Montealto for his second of the day to polish off the 4-0 score line and confirm the Catrachos' place in next year's regional championship.

    "We're pleased, since it looked like we might not qualify today," said Honduran coach Jose Francisco Valladares. "The first half was very even, but we improved a lot in the second half. Now we have to close out playing well, as always."

    The second match up of the day pitted two teams fighting to get on track, El Salvador and Costa Rica.

    After a back-and-forth, scoreless first half, it was the Salvadorans who took the lead 16 minutes after the interval. Midfielder Oscar Acevedo spotted Costa Rican goalkeeper Jorge Jara off his line, and teed up a long-range blast from about 40 meters that ended up in the net.

    Costa Rica fought back furiously, tying the game in the 84th minute. Rory Rivera was taken down in the box and put away the ensuing penalty to even the match.

    With just four minutes left, Costa Rican Berny Burke decided the match with a drive from outside the area into the top corner of the Salvadoran net.

    The 2-1 loss eliminated the hard-working Cuscatlecos from the competition with one game remaining.

    "We worked the whole match, but two small lapses cost us," said Acevedo. "I think we were the better team today, but we didn't come out on top. We just have to keep working. This is not the end for us."

    On Match Day 4, scheduled for Thursday, Costa Rica can qualify with a win over Nicaragua in the early match, while current tournament leader Honduras and Guatemala face-off in the late game.

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