ATLANTA – Gabriel Torres struck for a first-half brace and Blas Perez scored twice in the second half as Panama defeated Cuba, 6-1, in a CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal Saturday afternoon at the Georgia Dome.
The Panamanians set a new competition mark for the most goals scored by a single team in a quarterfinal game and advances to the semifinals for the third time. They will travel to Arlington, Texas, to face the winner of the Mexico-Trinidad & Tobago encounter, which will be played later in the day.
Cuba was competing in the quarterfinals for the second time. In 2003, the Lions of the Caribbean lost to the United States, 5-0.
After falling behind 1-0, Panama equalized when Gabriel Torres scored from the penalty spot in the 25th minute. American referee Mark Geiger ruled Renay Malblanche handled Marcos Sanchez’s shot inside the box. Torres slotted the ball to the right of goalkeeper Odelin Molina.
The Cuban then did well to parry away two quality shots by Perez, paving the way for Torres to strike for his second of the match and fifth of the tournament. In the 37th minute, Perez guided a header toward Torres and the midfielder scored on the first-time attempt.
Cuba, which reached the quarterfinals thanks to a dramatic 4-0 victory over Belize on the final day of the group stage – its second victory in 19 all-time Gold Cup matches – was reduced to 10 men in the 58th minute. Leading scorer Ariel Martinez was given a straight red card for a kick into Perez.
Panama took advantage ten minutes later as Carlos Rodriguez settled a deflected cross by Alberto Quintero and slotted his shot inside the far post from 10 meters to give Panama a commanding 3-1 lead.
After failing to put away several chances earlier, Perez scored his first goal of this tournament and third all-time quarterfinal goal in the 78th minute. The FC Dallas forward got behind the Cuban defense and slotted a shot past Molina from 13 meters to put Panama in front, 4-1.
Five minutes from full time, Panama, which scored just one goal in each of its last two quarterfinal appearances, netted its final goals. Jairo Jimenez got behind the Cuban defense and put away a breakaway to give Panama a 5-1 lead.
Perez added his second two minutes later, pouncing on a rebound in front of goal.
Against the run of play, Cuba took the lead in the 21st minute. Jaine Colome Valencia chipped the ball into the box, where Jose Ciprian Alfonso slid in with a first-time shot from 12 meters that beat Panamanian goalkeeper Jaime Penedo.
It was the first goal that the Canaleros conceded since a 2-1 victory over Mexico in the first match of the group stage on July 7. Panama, which finished atop Group A, has allowed one or less goals in its last eight Gold Cup matches.