MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Jorge Claros scored a dramatic goal two minutes into stoppage time to lift Honduras to a 1-0 victory over El Salvador and into the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup on Friday.
The Catrachos (2-0-0, 6 points), who can finish no worse than second place in Group B, solidified their lead over second-place Haiti (1-0-1, 3 pts.), 2-0 winners over Trinidad & Tobago (0-1-1, 1 pt.) in the first game of a doubleheader at Sun Life Stadium. El Salvador fell to 0-1-1 and has one point from two games.
With time running out in added time between these two Central American rivals, Claros collected a deflected free-kick from teammate Alexander Lopez and hammered it past outstretched goalkeeper Dagoberto Portillo to seal the game.
Honduras came close to drawing first blood in the 10th minute, when Rony Martinez raced down the right flank, only to hit his shot inches wide of goal.
El Salvador responded almost immediately after as its leading tournament goal-scorer Rodolfo Zeyala escaped his marker and fired a shot at goal that was well saved by Donis Escober.
The Hondurans thought they have taken the lead in the 21st minute. Mario Berrios turned just inside the 18-yard box and volleyed the ball into the ceiling of the Salvadoran net for what looked like the goal of the tournament. After a lengthy celebration, he looked back to see the assistant referee’s flag raised.
Honduras came out of the break with increased urgency in attack, but the Cuscatlecos’ backline of Victor Turcios, Marcelo Posadas and Mardoqueo Henriquez held strong.
With two minutes left in regulation, El Salvador nearly went ahead when Kevin Santamaria’s effort from 20-yards crashed of the post. Several minutes later, Claros found the range.
Hondurans take on Trinidad & Tobago in their final group stage match in Houston on Monday, while El Salvador plays Haiti.
NOTES: Honduras won its opening two Gold Cup matches for the first time since 2000, when it posted 2-0 wins over Jamaica and Colombia…Claros’ goal was his 1st ever in Gold Cup play…El Salvador’s Gold Cup unbeaten streak was snapped at four games