Cooper goal gives Panama 1-0 win over Costa Rica

Action from Copa Centroamericana match between Panama and Costa Rica (white jersey) on January 22, 2017, in Panama City, Panama. (Photo: Imagenes en Costa Rica)

PANAMA CITY, Panama -- Armando Cooper scored midway through the second half to lift Panama to a 1-0 victory over Costa Rica in the final game of the 2017 Copa Centroamericana at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez on Sunday.

The host Canaleros (3W-1D-1L, 10 points) finished second in the six-team competition, three points behind champion Honduras (4-1-0, 13), while the Ticos (1W-3D-1L, 6) – who were dethroned after two straight titles -- suffered their only loss and settled for fourth place.

Both teams already had qualified for this year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup in the United States.

Cooper registered his lone goal of the tournament in the 67th minute.  Midfielder Josiel Nuñez sent a left-wing feed that deflected off the head of Costa Rican defender Francisco Calvo and into the path of the onrushing Cooper on the right.  The 29-year-old Toronto FC midfielder then powered a shot from atop the penalty area past goalkeeper Dany Carvajal.

Carvajal made a couple of early saves that kept Costa Rica in the match, denying Abdiel Arroyo in the fourth minute and Juan Carlos Vargas off a corner kick 10 minutes later.

Panama twice came close to adding an insurance tally within a three-minute span late in the match.

Cooper, on the strength of some nifty back-and-forth passing with midfielder Jose Gonzalez, hit the right post in the 76th minute.  Arroyo, on a counterattack, then had his shot deflected out of bounds by Carvajal in the 79th minute.

The Panamanians kicked off their tournament schedule with a scoreless draw with Belize before registering a 2-1 win over Nicaragua.  They dropped a 1-0 decision to Honduras, before shutting out El Salvador by the same score.

Costa Rica, which has captured a record eight Copa titles, began with a 0-0 tie with El Salvador, before rebounding behind a 3-0 triumph over Belize.  The Ticos then played two draws -- 0-0 with Nicaragua and 1-1 with Honduras.