SANDY, Utah – An own-goal by Dalton Eiley proved to be the difference as Costa Rica defeated Belize, 1-0, in both teams' second Group C match in the CONCACAF Gold Cup at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday.
Costa Rica, which extended its unbeaten streak to seven matches, also booked a spot in the quarterfinals. It will face the United States in a critical top-of-the-table clash Tuesday at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut. That same evening, Gold Cup debutants Belize will meet Cuba, which lost to the United States, 4-1, earlier Saturday, in a game that could determine a quarterfinal berth.
The Ticos thought they grabbed a ninth minute lead when Jairo Arrieta connected with Kenny Cunningham, who bounced a downward header into the goal. The tally, though, was disallowed for offside.
Arrieta and Celso Borges combined for a dangerous chance in the 22nd minute, but Arrieta rolled his shot into Belizean goalkeeper Woodrow West.
Any good feelings the Jaguars had going into the locker room at halftime level went away only four minutes after the interval. Eiley deflected Cunningham’s cross into his own net from the edge of the six-meter box to give Costa Rica a 1-0 lead.
Belize would not back down, though, and pressed for the equalizer. Michael Salazar’s attempt in the 52nd minute bounced to goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton for an easy save.
Real Salt Lake forward Alvaro Saborio nearly scored in front of his home fans, but he shanked an attempt in the 55th minute.
One minute later, after a winning Saborio tackle, Borges spun around a Belize defender at the top of the box, only to shoot wide right.
Considered a pre-tournament favorite along with Mexico and the United States, Costa Rica was nearly gifted a second own goal in the 77th minute. West did well to get a hand on Osvaldo Rodriguez’s shot that deflected off Elroy Smith as the ball went out for a corner.
West came up big again with nine minutes remaining in regulation, jumping to save Ariel Rodriguez’s long-distance attempt.
In the 88th minute, West again robbed Costa Rica of an insurance goal, making a tremendous save to deny Castillo on a point-blank attempt.
Belize came inches away from pulling level in the final minute of second-half stoppage time. Trevor Lennen’s header following a corner kick looked bound for the open net, before it was but the ball was cleared off the line.
NOTES: Costa Rica also defeated Belize, 1-0, in the last meeting between them at the 2013 UNCAF Copa Centroamericana in San Jose, Costa Rica, on January 18….Costa Rica has not conceded a goal in 704 minutes…Costa Rica is unbeaten in 9 of its last 10 Gold Cup games.